ISLAMABAD-Trout farming has great potential to increase the income of people in Northern Areas of Pakistan and ultimately contribute to the national economy, WealthPK reported.

The government and farmers need to adopt modern techniques to improve trout aquaculture as production is not up to the desired level despite the development of the sector in Gilgit-Baltistan, Chitral and Swat. More people in Northern Areas are trying their luck in this sector owing to its monetary benefits but the government needs to take more steps to promote trout farming to strengthen the national economy.

Faisal Iftikhar, Chairman of the Pakistan Fisheries Exporters Association, Karachi, told WealthPK trout aquaculture has immense potential to increase the income of northern families. “It is the main source of income for the people who own trout fish farms in that area and those who catch them in the river. The residents of Kalam, who initially fished for trout in the river, have now set up their own farms and hope to build more,” he added.

He said that huge resources of cold water with a diversity of habitats ideal for trout farming are gifted by nature to the Northern Areas of Pakistan.

Faisal Iftikhar said that trout aquacultures should be established in water-sufficient areas with suitable climate, land and water conditions. “The northern regions, particularly Chitral, Madyan, Kalam and Skardu, which meet these requirements, are the potential locations for trout farming,” he added.

He said that local consumption of trout would be high throughout the summer season. He said that tourists from warmer areas of the country visited those regions during the summer season, increasing the consumption of trout.

He said that fish could be sold locally during the season because the cold climate zones attracted tourists from other areas all summer long. “Although there is less travel throughout the winter, the locals’ habit of consuming more fish when it is cold keeps the product in demand. Supermarkets and fish restaurants in Abbottabad, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar are among the target markets,” he added.

Faisal Iftikhar said that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government under its ‘development of farm fisheries in KP’ project started constructing about 380 trout fish farms mostly in Malakand and Hazara divisions to increase meat production in the province. “According to the fisheries department, 287 trout fish farms are being constructed under the development of cold-water fisheries project,” he added.

He said that the fisheries sector as a whole contributed about one percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product and provided jobs to about one percent of the total labour force in Pakistan. “Research was conducted to assess the profitability of commercial trout farmers, identify the problems they face and recommend policies to enhance commercial farming,” he added.

Faisal Iftikhar said that the study was carried out in the Northern Areas that practiced commercial trout farming. “Four private and one public sector fish farm locations were chosen for the study. The farmers were thoroughly interviewed during the study,” he added.

He said that according to the farmers, rainbow trout was the best specie for farming with a growing season of two years. “An abundant supply of clean and cold water is the primary requirement for trout culture. Adequate year-round supply is needed for the expansion of trout culture. The water should be clean, not turbid. The quantity of water depended on its quality, farming system and aquaculture techniques,” Faisal Iftikhar told WealthPK.