World Aquaculture Magazine - March 2024

WWW.WAS.ORG • WORLD AQUACULTURE • MARCH 2024 51 showcases an elongated body adorned with minute scales. Its lateral line is complete, while its head and body exhibit lateral compression. The dorsal profile is distinctly convex, and the anal fin extends extensively, merging seamlessly with the caudal fin. Pectoral fins are reduced, and the dorsal fin is of a shorter length. Remarkably, each side of the dorsal ridge displays 15 silvery shades or bars, complemented by 5-9 small black spots near the caudal fin’s terminus. Noteworthy is its possession of an accessory respiratory organ, enabling it to utilize atmospheric air when dissolved oxygen levels in water are low. Showing a preference for deep and clear waters, C. chitala is categorized as a rheophilic fish. Its habitat is exclusively freshwater, encompassing rivers, wetlands, reservoirs, lakes, and pond ecosystems across African and Asian countries. This extensive range includes nations such as India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, and Indonesia. While it can attain lengths of up to 122 cm and weigh approximately 19 kg in its natural habitat, pond-cultured individuals typically attain sizes of 3-4 kg (Fig. 1). The flesh of the fish contains approximately 16.7 percent crude protein and 1.2 percent crude lipid. Despite having a significant number of intramuscular bones, it commands a high market value. In the markets of Northeast India, its exceptional flavor and invigorating taste contribute to its typical price range of USD 8.42 to 12.03/kg. The abdominal part of the fish, known for its fewer bones, is highly preferred by consumers. In Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine, “Chital kofta,” a traditional Bengali culinary item, is prepared using the spine-rich dorsal part of the fish. Beyond its food value, C. chitala holds significance as a “game fish.” Anglers consider it a prized catch relating to its intense fight and the excitement derived from its remarkable strength and stamina. Furthermore, it has a place in the realm of “non-classified ornamental fish trade.” Internationally, it goes by the name “clown knife fish” in the ornamental fish trade, commanding prices ranging from USD 0.06 to 0.60/ piece. The fish was once abundant, particularly during the 1970s and 1980s, in Indian water bodies, especially those in the Eastern and Northeastern regions. However, factors such as indiscriminate fishing, habitat alterations, pollution, and climate-induced disruptions have India possesses a vast and diverse reservoir of fish genetic resources, encompassing 877 species in freshwater, 113 in brackish water, 1368 in marine, and 291 exotic species. However, the successful domestication and integration of fish species into aquaculture have not kept pace with the extensive biodiversity present. Despite substantial research and efforts to enhance fish production, the primary focus has predominantly been on breeding and cultivating rapidly growing carps. Regrettably, this approach has led to an oversight in exploring and harnessing the potential of numerous native fish species that could provide comparable or even superior benefits concerning food security, sustainable livelihoods, and ecosystem services. Even with an impressive annual growth rate of 10.34 percent in fish production in India, as per the latest data from the Handbook of Fisheries Statistics, Govt. of India 2023, the reality remains stark – the per capita fish supply falls short of the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) recommended level for ensuring nutritional security. Presently, the per capita fish supply of India stands at a mere 6.31 kg, significantly below the recommended requirement of 11 kg. This disparity is especially noticeable in hilly states like Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and others. Given the interplay of increasing domestic demands, rising costs, and the saturation of capture fisheries production, fish has become progressively unaffordable for a considerable portion of the population. Furthermore, the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the demand for “fresh fish” because of heightened recognition of its status as a “health food.” Consequently, it is now crucial to redouble efforts in exploring all potential avenues to elevate fish production from untapped sources. Within this pursuit, the prioritization of integrating more promising fish species into the realm of aquaculture assumes paramount importance. Chitala chitala (Chital) Chitala chitala, scientifically classified under the Family Notopteridae and Order Clupeiformes, is commonly recognized as the “Humped featherback;” however, it has garnered popularity under the name “Chital” within the public domain of India, particularly in the Eastern and Northeastern regions of the country. This fish species Chital Fish Farming: A Lucrative Venture for Livelihood Enhancement and Aquaculture Diversification in India Chandan Debnath (CONTINUED ON PAGE 52) FIGURE 1. Chital fish in ICAR fish farm, Tripura (size: 3.8 kg)