Fish Farms Catch on in Kerala
A gentle breeze winding its way through tall coconut trees, the whisper of water lapping on the edges of the shore, the vast expanse of a golden beach… these recurring images of Kerala have had their impact across the globe as revealed by the hordes of tourists arriving at the State’s airports and railway stations. But there are also new winds blowing across Kerala’s tourism landscape. Fish farms are now busy promoting aqua tourism and they have been pretty successful in baiting and catching a large number of tourists.
The Double Benefits of Fish Farms: Kerala’s water resources are simply magnificent. The rich green cover of the state is interspersed with the dazzling blue of water bodies which include 44 rivers, lakes, lagoons, canals and ponds. The lagoons and rivers are rich in marine life that includes delectable prawns, lobsters and trouts. The development of fish farms at these water bodies helps in bringing in tourists as well as help to replenish the state’s marine resources.
The idea of having fish farms that would cater both to aqua culture as well as aqua tourism was based on similar projects in Japan and Phillipines. In Kerala, the pioneer in this field was the Kerala State Co-operative Federation for Fisheries Development Ltd (Matsyafed). The first fish farms set up by the organisation were at Maalipuram and Vaikom. This was followed by the Njarakkal Fish Farm at Ernakulam.
The strategy for attracting tourists was simple – give people an economical getaway where they can relax in a picturesque setting, try their hand at fishing and gorge on the local cuisine. The fish farms focused on delivering to visitors a laidback day-off and it was an enormously successful strategy. As tourism revenue flowed in, the fish farms were able to expand their aqua culture activities. Pisciculture in these farms involve rearing prawns, crabs, milk fish, pearl spot (Karimeen) and several other species. Scientific methods are followed and fish seeds are provided by Matsyafed.
The Development of Fish Farms: As the fish farms set up by Matsyafed started flourishing, more and more private investors began to show an interest. Given the fact that the state has 186 inland societies and several marine co-operatives, the Kerala government and its investment agencies like KSIDC were quick to sense the potential of this field. The government went all out to encourage aqua tourism. Interested investors were given technical assistance and any other required guidance by Matsyafed.
The encouragement of aqua tourism has resulted in fish farms being set up across Kerala, especially in areas like Kannur, Kottayam and Alappuzha.
Encouraging Responsible Tourism: Fish farms provide an economical and eco-friendly tourism alternative. The entry fees are generally low. Visitors are offered a welcome drink, a chance at fishing and a fish-based meal to encourage the local cuisine. Pedal and row boat facilities are also available. Efforts are taken to ensure that the tourism activities on the farm in no way detract from the primary goal of pisciculture. The environment is kept natural with eco-friendly buildings and care is taken to ensure that the farms fit in completely with the surroundings. In some fish farms, entry is restricted to a limited number of visitors to ensure that there is no damage to the ecosystem.
Fish farms are a concept that was introduced late in the varied menu provided by Kerala tourism. But their simplicity and eco-friendly approach have caught the popular imagination. Today, nearly 40 percent of the revenue earned by the fish farms is generated from tourism. Given this success, the fish farms are likely to net even bigger revenues in the future.