Kerala-based fish farmer Smija M B won recognition from CMFRI for her cage fishing practices, from which she earns lakhs.
Around 40 metres from the banks of Periyar River, near Moothakunnam in Ernakulam, you can see numerous cages in which many varieties of fish are grown. Tending to and guarding them is 38-year-old Smija M B, who regularly feeds and harvests the fish.
In 2018, the Department of Fishers came up with its cage fishing project, as part of the Blue Revolution. With global fish production on the decline due to climate change, the project aims to encourage more farmers to enter the field, especially women and members of scheduled castes/tribes. Around 500 cages were supplied to Kerala as part of this. The project began in Kannur, and later reached Ernakulam, where Smija, who also works as a workshop instructor at SNM INT Engineering College, decided to take up the cause.
Cage fishing, or cage culture, involves growing fish in existing water resources like rivers, ponds, lakes or the sea. This allows the fish to remain in free-flowing water while being enclosed in a net cage made of a floating frame, net materials and a mooring system. Cage farms are positioned in such a way so as to utilise natural currents, which provide the fish with oxygen and other appropriate natural conditions.
Many women from Smija’s locality became part of the project with technical guidance from the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI). Apart from the subsidy provided by the CMFRI, Smija, her husband Unnikrishnan, and three other shareholders, invested around Rs 10 lakh in this farm. They started off by installing three cages with four types of fish — sea bass, bluefin trevally, green chromide and mangrove red snapper.
But things were not free-flowing as there were back to back floods and the COVID-19 pandemic which all adversely affected the fish farming and business. “As both of us are working, farming is now a side business. Despite that, we are able to earn double our annual investment. For instance, last year, we invested around Rs 2 lakh and were able to earn Rs 4-5 lakh,” Smija explains. “If enough feed is available and thorough care is given, this can be a more successful and income-generating business idea capable of meeting the requirements of a whole family,” she adds.
Smija was honoured by CMFRI on Women’s Day 2021. This national-level award made her popular among aquaculture farmers in and out of the state, she says. She adds that many women in her neighbourhood have taken up cage fishing after seeing her success.
Credits: The Better India
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