Monday, January 11, 2016

Chatli Meenu - Tale of a Royal shrimp

A short drive from Kundapur to Bhatkal along National highway 17 reveals some of strangest scenes along the vibrant mangrove backwaters. One can visualize the neatly arranged net roofed swamps besides paddy fields. Even though the swamps are not restricted along National Highway, these are the glimpses catching attention of commuters for the first time. The unique visuals are nothing but tale of royal fish farming. Indigenously known as "Chatli Meenu" or "Seegadi", these fishes are meant for export purposes which costs dear in local market. Even the owners of this such fishery industry draw huge amounts of profit provided the process turns out as planned. It requires equal amount of diligence to reap the revenue which is explained in following sections. Here is short tale of a harvest which I penned down after conversation with one of the care-taker such swamp. Hope it entices the readers as well :).

Disclaimer: Some of the points mentioned below seems eccentric or exaggerating. It is neither to mislead or gain TRP like Indian media :-). I just tranformed verbal communication to readable format :-).

Let me start with the figures!

-- The fisheries is aimed at exporting the fishes costs 3lakhs/KG in Indian market. Seems aggrandize, but true! It requires equal amount of pain to tag it with export quality brand.
-- Twice a year, yield is obtained. One yield is obtained in span of 4 months with 2 months being maintenance period.
-- The presence of backwater or river provides perfect environment for the royal fish harvest.
-- It requires Rs.30,000 per month to maintain each swamp.
-- About 2-4 bags of special food bags are necessary to feed the fishes. Each bag costs 2500 and weighs 25kg.
-- A dedicated doctor is nominated to monitor health of fishes.
-- It requires 24hrs of attention. The care-takers of such swamps live in small camps to look after the pond.
-- Despite being low in depth, a special transport mechanism is provided to feed the fishes. This to prevent any side effects arising out of human interaction.
-- The last two months of harvet requires careful attention. At this time, the fans which are attached on top of the pond needs to drive unabated to supply unprecedented oxygen.
-- The untimely food or fan timings would provoke the fishes to reach the surface of pond risking entire harvest.
-- The yield per harvest is about 8 tons. The density of yield also matters. Lesser the density more is profit since less quanity of fish constitute per KG.
-- A slight  mistake leads to loss of 25-30lacs. An equal amount of profit is reaped if all is well! (else "all in well"). The owners such swamps own grand SUVs as well (may be even mansions).
-- The lost yield is sold at meagre price of 300 per KG in local market.
-- End of harvest season, the fish is transported with required temperature to Mangalore port which is further exported to USA & middle east.
-- With required quality checks, the importing countries charge heavy bill on this royal dish.
-- The high-cost is attributed to its nutrient contents & taste.

The maintenance

-- Once harvest season concludes, it is time for maintenance. the water is drained out of pond & fans are taken out for complete check.
-- The damp field is now spread with limestone & other anti-germ materials. Later fresh stock of buffered water is let into the pond. Subsequently the water is bleached and kept ready for next harvest.
-- The pond is filled with water filtered from backwaters.
-- Before the water is let-in to the swamps, the water from backwater is buffered in a temporary swamp.
-- The water should be thoroughly filtered to prevent unwanted materials and also the foreign fishes (which are present in backwaters).
-- The crystal clear water is made translucent by spreading sugar, jaggery or rice floor. The sunlight should not reach the deep surface of pond which could otherwise hamper growth of fish.
-- The swamps are roofed with closely woven nets to prevent intrusion of stray birds, and external entities.
-- The harvest requires saline water with certain ph level (80-90). The presence of vast number of backwaters provide bountiful saline water along the rural areas of Kundapura.
-- The depth of pond is about 4-5 feet.
The infants are brought from TamilNadu (where this type of harvest is popular) again packaged with right diligence and left in pond for breeding.

On concluding note, what's the need of such expensive food? Well it's profit for one and pleasure for another. Also, I assume it is high in nutrients. Why do we have cars ranging from Alto to Rolce royce? It's the same case with this breed of fish.



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