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Fisheries dept to cultivate Ilish in ponds, rivers

Kolkata: In a significant stride towards becoming self-reliant in the production of Hilsa, the state Fisheries department will now take up the cultivation of the fish in ponds and rivers. The department has signed an MoU with a Norwegian company, which will extend all possible assistance in this regard.
"If Norway has been successful in cultivating salmon in pond or river water, then there is no reason why we should not be able to do the same with Hilsa. We are taking Norwegian help for processing of the fish with plans so that the fish can breed in pond or river water," state Fisheries minister Chadranath Sinha said.
The department gradually wants to stop import of the fish from Myanmar, which is much more than gastronomy for a Bong. Hilsa, popularly known as Ilish in Bengal, is about identity, history and nostalgia. A Bong will take a mouthful of Hilsa and sort out the bones without showing any sign of discomfort.
"But over the years due to wanton exploitation, pollution and habitat destruction, there has been a decline in the availability of Hilsa in both sea and river water. So we are taking all possible steps for conservation as well as increased production of Ilish," a senior official of the department said.
The fish is anadromous, schools in coastal waters and ascends up the rivers for around 50-100 km to spawn during the South West monsoons (June to September) and also in January to April. April is the most fertile month for breeding of Ilish.
It may be mentioned that, inspired by the vision of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in regard to self-reliance in Hilsa, the state Fisheries department came up with the country's first ever dedicated Hilsa Conservation and Research Centre (HCRC) at Sultanpur in Diamond Harbour in December 2013.
Ilish, having migratory habits and trans-boundary distribution, is a significant component of open water capture fishery in Bengal, contributing about 19 percent of the total fish landing in the Hooghly-Matla estuarine system.
The department is also taking up awareness campaigns for Hilsa conservation, by distributing leaflets, putting up banners and posters and conducting boat and road rallies across the state, particularly in those areas where Hilsa are netted by the fishermen. "We are also maintaining coordination and synergy with laboratories and institutes working on Hilsa fishery," the official added.
The catching, marketing and transportation of Ilish less than 23 cm in length, is banned in the state. "We have put in place vigilante teams in all the concerned districts for keeping regular vigil on markets and landing centres. Special raids are conducted during the designated ban period between September 15 to October 24 each year," the official said.
"We are also in the process of setting up two similar HCRCs in Tribeni and Farakka," Sinha said.

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