Indian begins documenting fish species

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi, Jan 27 | Updated: Jan 28 2008, 07:25am hrs
The Lucknow-based National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources (NBFGR) has begun the process of Indian fish germplasm accessions with a view to develop a repository for future use and as well as for protecting the Indian species from bio-piracy.

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has constituted a six-member committee headed by its deputy director-general for fisheries for protection of fish germplasm through registration and documentation. NBFGR as a nodal agency has issued the necessary guidelines for implementation.

India has rich aquatic biodiversity spread across different ecosystems. Out of the the 27,800 fish species found across the world, about 11% are found in Indian waters. Apart from finfish resources, nearly 2934 species of crustaceans, 5000 species of mollusks and 765 species of echinoderms also contribute to India's rich aquatic germplasm resources, according to AD Diwan, assistant director-general of fisheries.

India is the fourth largest producer of fish in the world and second largest producer of inland fish. The total fish production is around 6 million tonne per year. The fishery sector provides employment to seven million people and its share in the GDP is around 1.4%. Majority of aquaculture is supported by three species of Indian major carps and one species of shrimp.

Natural aquatic germplasm resources are important as majority of the genetic resources for food still come from the wild due to low documentation level in the fishery sector. In other words, capture fishery is equally important as breeding for nutritional security across the globe. This is in contrast to the animal farming and agriculture where domesticated varieties only contribute to the food basket.. Therefore, management of fisheries resources draw parallel to that followed in wild life and forestry besides the agriculture. Besides a source for food. Aquatic germplasm resources are also an important source of various products of commercial value and to sustain other related trades like ornamental fishes.

The NBFGR has taken up the challenge to secure the IPRs related to aquatic germplasm so that the country is able to maintain its stake on its natural wealth and their potential benefits, said a senior scientist.

He said that the repositories would store the accessions of genetic stocks discovered and varieties developed.

It would maintain accessions for future use to retrieve information as well as whole or part of genome, if species were not found in nature.

To harness the potential of biotechnological innovations, it will be essential that DNA, whole and modified such as gene constructs be part of the repository, he said and added this would also provide material for future research work.

The species level accessions can be secured through building DNA and tissue bank as a fast mode to store materials for long term. Sperm or cells and live gene bank accessions can be made only for prioritized and selected fish species. Identification of of genetic stock or racee in the wild populations of cultivable fish species would be taken up through concentrated efforts using molecular markers, morphological and production traits.