Pearl spot fish farming giving rich dividends in Kerala


After the grand success during Vishu, pearl spot fish (Karimeen) farmers of Kerala are enthusiastically waiting for the next festival season. Vishu this year was a memorable one for them as they harvested a bumper catch of pearl spot through cage fish farming.
Pearl spot fish is considered a delicacy and dishes based on it, such as Karimeen fry, Karimeen pollichathu and Karimeen curry, are an added attraction for those visiting Kerala. They are low on fat, rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and riboflavin. Pearl spot culture is fast emerging as a profitable enterprise among farmers as the demand in the domestic market is set to rise to 10,000 tonnes. Currently the annual production is at 2,000 tonnes, which is insufficient to meet the demand.

Farmers of Puthenvelikkara are among the pioneers of pearl spot fish farming in Kerala. During the last Vishu festival season, members of the Mary Matha Self Help Group here made a record catch of 250 kg of pearl spot through cage farming within six-and-half months, fetching revenue of Rs 1.25 lakh. Fish farming is undertaken by the group as part of the women empowerment programme initiated by Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS). It comes under the ongoing integrated fish village project called Samagra Matsyagramam at Thiruthur in the panchayat.
As part of the programme, KUFOS, has formed a self-help group of women in the area by providing them with cages and training to carry out cage culture of pearl spot. The University also instructed them on trade and product branding to help the group earn more and to direct reach consumers avoiding intermediaries.
“The objective of the programme is to empower women by providing them job opportunities through fish farming,” says B Madhusoodana Kurup, Vice-Chancellor, KUFOS. He adds that it also helps enrich indigenous fish stocks that are facing threat of extinction.
KUFOS has taken up the project with the financial support of Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana. The Fisheries Department and the Puthenvelikkara Panchayat have extended support for the project.