India’s freshwater resources consist of rivers and canals (197024 km), reservoirs (3.15 million ha), ponds and tanks (2.35 million ha), and oxbow lakes and derelict (i.e. ruined and unusable natural waterbodies) waters (1.3 million ha). Carp culture has been promoted in many of these waterbodies for the past four decades. The average fish production from the ponds has been expanded to about 2.5 tones/ha/year in several states from an early production level of ~0.5 tones/ha/year. However, research results and the accomplishments of progressive farmers indicate the possibility of obtaining ~10 tones/ha/year; thus there is good potential to increase present on-farm production levels. To achieve these, feed is recognized as the most important input. As seen in Figure 1, most of the current inland fish production is contributed by the aquaculture sector. By 2007, nearly 50 percent of total national fish production was being contributed by aquaculture (Figure 2), a fact that demonstrates the evolving importance of aquaculture in the current situation of declining capture fishery resources.
In 2006 the combined aquaculture and capture fisheries sectors contributed 1.2 percent to the national gross domestic product (GDP) and 5.3 percent to the national agricultural GDP (FAO, 2008). With a total fish production of 7.13 million tonnes in 2008, the country has become the third largest fish producer in the world. As mariculture in India is still in its infancy, freshwater aquaculture has been identified as the principal area to cater to the increasing domestic demand for fish. When the entire population of the country is considered, the per capita availability of fish is reported to be only 4 kg. However, as about 65% of the population does not eat fish (due to religious and cultural reasons), it might be assumed that per capita fish availability is more than 11 kg; however the annual per capita fish consumption is only 9.8 kg, which is much lower than the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation of 13 kg (MFS, 2011). It is projected that the national annual fish requirement will be around 10 and 13 million tonnes by 2012 and 2020, respectively (Eknath, Das and Jena, 2009). With the declining contribution from capture fisheries, much of the production will have to come from aquaculture to fill the deficit. To cope with the increasing demand, it has been projected (Eknath, Das and Jena, 2009) that Indian aquaculture will have to demonstrate an average annual growth rate of over 8 percent in the next five years. An increasing awareness of the health benefits of eating fish will also lead to greater demand.
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