Ilish farming in ponds is not commercially viable
More research is necessary before the cultivation of ilish in ponds can be made commercially viable, the Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute (BFRI) has said.
Ilish is considered a delicacy and favourite fish dish among Bangali people.
Since 1988, the institute has conducted four phases of research about the possibilities of farming the popular fish in ponds.
"We have not succeeded in commercial ilish farming but have managed to keep the fish alive in ponds,” BFRI's Ilish Researcher Dr Anisur Rahman said.
"People might farm ilish in ponds as a hobby but more research is necessary for the the fish to be commercially viable."
Currently, a team of seven researchers and four research assistants are working on ilish farming in Chandpur and have spent Tk6-7 lakh on the project.
History suggests they may have their work cut out to turn that investment into a profit.
BFRI first took the initiative to farm ilish in two Chandpur ponds in 1988 with governmental financing. The project ended in 1995 as it was unsuccessful.
From 2004-2005, researchers unsuccessfully tried to conduct more research on ilish farming.
Between 2010-2011 and 2012-2013, research restarted under the project called "Jatka Conservation, Alternate Income Generation for the Jatka Fishers and Research Project".
"We researched the possibility of ilish farming in different stages,”ilish Researcher Dr Anisur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune.
“From 2012-2013, we collected ilish fry of 8-12cm from sea or rivers and released them into the institute's ponds.”
A year later, researchers examined the fish and found they had a low growth rate and their eggs were underdeveloped. The fish weighed only 300g, whereas ilish from other water bodies usually weigh 400-500g.
Dr Anisur said: "Learning from this experience we made natural food for ilish in the following study. The results were better but ilish still cannot be farmed for commercial purposes.
"Observing the ilish in ponds, we discovered that they do not consume their food properly. It is very hard to maintain the quality of food and water in an enclosed body of water.
“However, I cannot say ilish farming is impossible,” the researcher said.
The matter was discussed at the National Parliament before another failed attempt was made from 2015-2016 under the World Fish Center's ECOFISH project with USAID funding.
After that, BFRI concluded it was possible to farm ilish in ponds but not for commercial purposes.