Ornamental fish keeping is the second largest hobby in the world next to photography. The ornamental fisheries sector plays a major role in international fish trade, contributing rural development in many developing countries, with a positive impact throughout the value chain.
Aquarium keeping as a hobby in India is nearly 70 years old. India is bestowed with the climatic conditions ideally conducive for growth, maturation and breeding of many exotic as well as indigenous ornamental fishes. The Western Ghats in the southern peninsula and the North-Eastern region of India are considered to be two of the 34 Biodiversity ‘hotspot’ areas of the world. Marine ornamental fishes are available in the Lakshadweep Islands, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and in the Gulf of Mannar. However India’s contribution to the international trade of ornamental fish is low when compared to many other countries.
The Western Ghats extending for over a length of 1600 km, forms a major source of a variety of Freshwater fishes in India. Many fishes like red line torpedo fish ( Sahydriya denisonii) have already secured a position in the National and International markets as ornamental fishes. The streams of Kerala have been identified with exceptional biodiversity and are blessed with potentially usable ornamental fishes with respect to attractive nature, fascinating appearance and with brilliant colouration. However exotic ornamental fishes are major players in the domestic markets.
It was under this situation, that Government of Kerala commenced a structured programme for development of the ornamental fisheries through farming. The Kerala Aqua Ventures International Limited (KAVIL) is formed as part of the programme, on 6th December, 2007. The Aqua Technology Park (ATP) under KAVIL is the first of this kind in India , where ready to use onsite units with all the required facilities for the purpose of domestic and export trade of ornamental fishes are made available for the aspiring entrepreneurs. The ATP consists of individual Aqua Hubs with dedicated provisions for massive collection and maintenance of ornamental fishes, conditioning and packing units with glass tanks for quality checks, packing area, facilities for maintenance of biosecurity and climate controlled room for pre packing of fish. The company provides common services such as water, electricity, laboratory services, quarantine, R&D and extension services to the hub operators. The hub operators can collect fish from different sources including ornamental fish farms and homestead ornamental fish units ( HOU) developed on a parallel stream. The fish brood stock maintenance and breeding facilities of KAVIL keep the quality of fish and form the source of fish seeds to the farms and HOU. The fishes produced in HOU and farms are collected back and traded through KAVIL. Climate controlled vehicles are used for fish transportation. The fishes are conditioned and packed for sales observing strict quality control measures.
The export of ornamental fishes from Kerala began only in the 1990s. The first export from KAVIL was made in 7th December, 2009. KAVIL has exported fishes to Countries like USA, France, Sri Lanka, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Bahrain, Malaysia, and Singapore in addition to the domestic trade including northern States.
The global trade of ornamental fishes including accessories and fish feed is estimated to be worth more than USD 15 billion with an annual growth of 8% in the year 2016. Around 500 million fish were traded annually by 145 countries, of which 80-85% is tropical species. Only 22.5 % of the global trade is contributed by fishes and the rest is the trade of accessories including fish feed. India’s share in ornamental fish market varied between 0.12 % and 1.16% however; it has reduced to 0.3% in the year 2016. The highest market share of USD 3.79 million was achieved in 2007. India has tremendous potential for export of ornamental fish and is regarded as a sleeping giant in the sector. Domestic marketing for ornamental fish in India is also much promising. At present, the demand for quality tropical fish far exceeds the supply. The domestic market for ornamental fish in India is estimated at Rs 50 crores and the domestic trade are growing at an annual rate of 20%. KAVIL was formed primarily to promote business in ornamental fisheries and endorse genuine trade of ornamental fishes and accessories.