Jammu and Kashmir has a tremendous potential for the development of many fish species due its rich perennial water resources. The perennial fresh, pollution free and well oxygenated water resources blessed to the Jammu and Kashmir are lakes, rivers, springs, canals etc. The most famous, natural and perennial rivers are Jhelum, chenab, Indus etc and lakes like Dal lake, Nigeen lake, Wular lake, Manasbal lake, and Mansar lake. The springs namely Kokernag spring , Verinag spring , Achawal spring, Nishat spring etc are also crystal clear and perennial in flow. The water bodies of Jammu and kashmir can hold large populations of both indigenous and exotic cold and warm fish species. Important food fishes usually cultivated are Mahaseers and Schizothoracines among the indigenous species and Trouts and carps among the exotic varieties. The region has also potential for development of other Fisheries like Reservoir Fisheries, Lacusterine Fisheries, and the Sport Fisheries due well suited climatic conditions and water bodies for breeding, rearing, and production of varied species of Fishes. The food fishes namely trout and carp are considered to be important species due to their production potential, high market price and consumer preference. TheTrout fishes have great commercial importance not only in india but all also all over the world .The trout and carp fisheries particularly in Kashmir has become a great tourist attraction to the visitors of outside. For example, the Asia’s largest Trout Fish Farming Project established by government at Kokernag has become the great pull factor for tourists for the past many years. Jammu and Kashmir is home of many important fish species and for the past many years, this sector has shown increased annual fish production due to awareness, education and adoption of new techniques and methods of fish farming, government support, introduction of centrally sponsored schemes like Pardhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY), Rashtriya Krishi VikasYojana (RKVY) and development of massive infrastructure in the form of Fish Farms, Fish Rearing Units, Hatcheries, Laboratories, aquaria recreational centres, marketing outlets, trout and carp beats etc , besides, establishment of largest Trout Fish Farming Project at Kokernag under European Union Assistance, Trout Fish Feed Mills at Manasbal and Kokernag as well as whole Sale cum Retail Fish Markets in the region. The fish markets in Jammu and Kashmir are equipped with all latest equipments like deep freezers, air conditioning facilities etc. The well equipped modern fish markets cater the needs and requirements of people, fishermen community and fisheries department . The Fish farming in Jammu and kashmir has number of advantages as it provides employment opportunities to educated and un-employed youth of Jammu and kashmir and as per the data about 93,000 people depend on fisheries for their livelihood. It provides food and nutrition security to the people. It is also a source of revenue to the government
Despite J&K having an immense potential for fish farming due to sufficient resources available,There is a big gap between the demand and supply in fisheries sector in J&K. In J&K, the annual requirement of fish is 1.5 lakh tonnes.However, the whole J&K produces only 21.35 thousand tonnes of fish. For the past many years, a very small number of people have been attracted to this sector and taken advantages of the various schemes offered by the center and state for establishing their small fish farms. The small fish farms established by people provide them employments, livelihood, food and nutrition security and also raised their standards of living. It is pertinent to mention here that since abrogation of article 370 and along with covid 19 lockdowns , the young youth of Jammu and kashmir have developed a sense of frustration due to rising unemployment and limitted employment opportunities that caused anxiety and depression among youth and pushed them towards drug abuse, alcohol consumption, illegal activities, suicides etc. Bringing unemployed youth to Fisheries sector is the need of the hour as it can not only save the young youth from drug abuse, alcohol consumption, suicides, and illegal activities but also open new avenues of income and employment for the youth of J&K and curb the unemployment growth to some extent for peaceful and prosperous society. How to attract youth to this sector and increase the fish production, several measures should be taken by the fisheries department in particular: Education and awareness among youth regarding importance of fish farming through seminars, debates, discussions etc, imparting skill training to youth, introduction of improved varieties of fish, financial assistance in the form of subsidy loans with zero interest, adoption of modern technologies and methods in fish farming, provision of modern equipments, high quality seeds, fingerlings, and fish feed to youth at subsidized rates. The fish farming has been facing many challenges that hampers its production and also lead to extinction of many indigenous fish species. The challenges are encroachment of natural water bodies, increasing water pollution to water bodies, indiscriminate use of pesticides and fertilizers that affect fish farming due to eutrophication of water bodies, illegal angling and nets, use of bleaching powder for fish slaughter, construction of dams, decreasing water level, low rainfall and climate change also affect fish farming. Keeping in view the challenges, the Fisheries department in particular and Jammu & Kashmir Government in general should take necessary measures against challenges facing fish farming by various means like education and awareness of people about importance of fish farming, strict implementation of laws, issuance of genuine angling licenses, control of pollutions, fine and imprisonment of violators of laws of fish farming. It is high time for the youth to come out of your cozy homes and take advantages of schemes offered by government for establishing small fish farms and become employment providers instead of employment seekers. Let’s hope for high growth and high fish production for the economic growth of Jammu and Kashmir.
(The author is a teacher at Boys Higher Secondary School Beerwah. Views are his own)