In a move towards self-sufficiency, almost 70 percent of freshwater fish demand in the east is now being met by local fisheries.
There are 125 fisheries and two large fishery cooperatives in three gewogs of Samdrupjongkhar that cater to demand in the east.
Some maybe disappointed that Bhutanese are mass farming fish for consumption. This is understandable given our culture of compassion for all sentient beings. We must respect their concerns and opinion.
However, as long as an equally viable alternative is not offered to satiate the demand for freshwater fish, or for that matter, other meats, we cannot also expect those who maybe facing unemployment or poverty to give up what is a lucrative occupation.
In fact, a fishery requires comparatively lower investment than similar businesses and is highly profitable. The income from a fishery is also constant which means that supply of fish is consistent.
This means that we can depend on a steady supply of an important food source rich in omega-3 oils to continue addressing nutrition challenges.
We also reduce import and dependency in an important food category and create employment.
There are areas of concerns with mass fish farming though. The large number of fish being farmed in ponds could lead to overcrowding given limited space to host ponds in Bhutan. It is important that relevant agencies ensure that the living conditions for the fish are not inhumane.
There is also a risk of environmental pollution and disease, risking fish in the wild. Relevant agencies must ensure rules are strictly enforced and adhered to so that these risks are reduced.
Despite the misgivings, fish farming is an industry that needs to receive the required support. It will help the country achieve self-sufficiency. As the saying goes: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”