Nepal Aquaculture

Nepal is a landlocked country located north of the Indian border, with no sea access and therefore it is heavily reliant on inland marine resources to meet and sustain the domestic demand for fish and fish based products.

A predominantly Hindu nation, more than 80% of Nepal’s population are Hindu’s, fish based protein is an important source of nutrition and sustenance, given the lower intakes of red meat Hindu nations have when compared to other countries.

Aquaculture in Nepal started in the 1940s, so it’s by no means a new industry, but progress has been slow, stalled or hampered, by a lack of R & D in the sector. Freshwater fish are normally cultivated in natural ponds and the most popular species to be bred in captivity are carps and carp variants, possibly because they are easier to cultivate in controlled environments when compared to other species of fish, and over the years, carp poly-culture in ponds have become the most viable type of aquaculture in Nepal and currently account for over 90% of total production.

Carps however thrive in warm or lukewarm waters, and therefore a majority of the country's aquaculture farms are located in the south of the country where conditions are warmer than the north.   

Over half a million people are employed in Nepal’s aquaculture sector and as far as the landlocked nation is concerned it is by no means a small sector and those employed in the sector earn more than others who are employed in similar jobs in other sectors and that is an indication that the aquaculture sector in Nepal is faring well and generates at the very least a decent, if not better return on investment.

The aquaculture sector in Nepal is principally run by female employees. Over 60% of the workers involved in the symbiotic cultivation of fish in Nepal are women, and this is an interesting facet of the aquaculture sector in Nepal in that it is a sustainable employment generator for women in rural areas.

Nepal has successfully implemented a carp breeding program and the success has encouraged those in the industry to try the same techniques with other species of fish in the hope of achieving similar results. At present there are seven different species of fish with different feeding habits that are farmed in Nepal.

The success of Nepal’s aquaculture program prompted the ADB to provide financial assistance to the sector, and post 1980, there was a boom in Nepal’s aquaculture sector.  The country diversified from restricting its farming capabilities to warm water stock and ventured into cold water breeds, namely trout. The species is popular in most aquaculture nations but it hasn’t fared well or has enjoyed only limited success in Asia.

Caged fish farming, a common method of aquaculture is popular in the Pokhara Valley, best known for its placid lakes and meandering rivers, located approximately 200 km west of the nation’s capital Kathmandu and at an altitude of 827 m. There are 7 major lakes in Pokhara combined with a multitude of smaller lakes and most of them are ideal for aquaculture.

In addition to that Nepal’s aquaculture sector also includes rice field fish farming. Rice fields are covered in water for a certain period of time (3 - 6 months) before the paddy matures and hatchlings are released into the rice fields, just after the rice fields are flooded every year. The fish grow naturally, with almost little or no care, feeding on insects and other fresh water dwellers like tadpoles.

Other aquaculture variations include farming in tanks and containers, for example concrete tanks, and unlike caged aquaculture which requires netting a pond, farming in containers is relatively easy and can be done in the backyard. Certain varieties of fresh water fish for example Tilapia are simple and easy to farm.

The water however has to be recycled continuously, and the filters have to be cleaned regularly. Disease remains the blight of the aquaculture sector and the water has to be treated periodically.

It is not uncommon to farm in multiple containers simultaneously to ensure easier management and to control the PH levels of the water. Extreme PH levels either on the higher end or the lower end are unsuitable for most aquatic organisms. Low PH levels accelerate the release of metals from rocks or sediments and high PH levels can harm fish by denaturing cellular membranes.

Farmers have to be vigilant and they have to guard against bacteria, viruses, fungi, algae, and other microbes that sometimes grow on the scales of the fish. The water has to be regularly treated with antimicrobials or antibiotics i.e. chemicals designed to either kill or inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria but have no effect on higher level organisms and these microorganisms present the biggest challenge to cultivating fish in open tanks or containers.

Copyright © 2020 by Dyarne Jessica Ward


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