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BD, WorldFish to work together on Hilsa aquaculture

Bangladesh and WorldFish is going to collaborate aiming at exploring aquaculture potential of Hilsa fish, the topmost delicious fish consumed by South Asian people, officials said Sunday.

"We have received a request for cooperation and support for working on Hilsa and its aquaculture potentials from the WorldFish, headquartered in Malaysia. We are hopeful of collaborating with the global fish agency," Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock (MoFL) Shamsul Kibria told the FE.

"If we can artificially breed the delicious fish and free the fries in the bay, the production of Hilsa will increase manifold," he said.

The collaboration will result in increased production, availability of the fish in the local market as well as better earnings from export of the item, Mr Kibria added.

Director of the WorldFish, Bangladesh and South Asia Office Willia J Collis in his proposal said from the production and nutrition point of view Hilsa remains Bangladesh's single most popular fish species.

The recent decline in the Hilsa capture appears to have been stopped due to conservation efforts. But in spite of a possible stabilisation in the catch, demand for this important species is not being met and prices continue to climb, he noted.

"In order to meet the increased demand of the fish both for domestic consumption and even export we and others are suggesting the possibility for domestication and aquaculture of Hilsa," Mr Collis added.

The similar migratory clupeid fishes have been successfully bred and are being considered for aquaculture in other countries.

Hilsa is the most popular fish among the 250 million Bengalis living on both sides of Bengal. During the festival of Jamai Sasthi, Hindus treat their sons-in-law with delicious Hilsa dishes. The government of Bangladesh last month (before Jamai Sasthi) sent tonnes of Hilsa fish to Paschimbanga responding to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's plea.

In fiscal year (FY) 2010-11 Bangladesh exported 5,376 tonnes of Hilsa fish to India out of the total export of 8,500 tonnes. The rest was exported to the Bangladeshi ethnic markets in Europe and North America.

Hilsa fish worth Tk 3.5 billion was shipped in the last fiscal against Tk 1.25 million in the fiscal before. The country caught some 0.34 million tonnes of Hilsa last year, with a market price of around Tk 120 billion. This year the catch is expected to soar to 0.36 million tonnes thanks to stepped-up efforts to conserve fries.