Up to 30% faster growth of the carp is expected, farmers likely to get access to WorldFish-developed improved Rohu variety soon
In recent years, researchers in Bangladesh obtained fingerlings of Rohu from the country’s three major river systems – Padma, Jamuna and Halda. The goal was to genetically improve Bangladesh’s most popular carp by selective breeding.
Thanks to eight years of perseverance and long arduous job of selecting best of the best broods after rearing several generations of Rohu stocks, a great success has just been achieved.
WorldFish researchers have developed a genetically improved Rohu variety with up to 30% faster growth potential. They already started both on-station and field trials in the last season, and will continue the same this season.
If things move faster from here, fish farmers can expect having access to the new improved variety next year when the hatcheries, supplied with the improved Rohu, starts spawning the fish.
From this improved carp variety, farmers can now expect to get Rohu stock from their ponds ready for sale in the market in a shorter period than usual.
What is the project?
WorldFish, a member of CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future that harnesses the potential of fisheries and aquaculture to reduce hunger and poverty throughout the world, took up this task of carrying out selective breeding to gain genetic improvement in one of the most preferred carp species, first time in Bangladesh in 2012.
Thanks to a five-year USAID-funded Feed the Future Bangladesh Aquaculture Activity (BAA) program run by the WorldFish, the Rohu improvement work got momentum over the last couple of years. BAA works in Bangladesh in 21 south-western districts and two districts in the southeast affected by the Rohingya situation.
BAA Deputy Chief of the Party Dr Md Shamsul Kabir told Dhaka Tribune that Rohu and some other carps lost genetic purity over time. But thanks to their work, farmers would soon get better breed thereby, helping them rear improved quality carp and earn more in quicker time.
Dr Kabir said they had already handed out broods to five Jessore hatcheries and to two other organizations - Brac and Fishtech - and given spawns to 15 fish nurseries in Jessore and Rajshahi regions as part of the field trial process.
Rohu aquaculture in Bangladesh currently uses genetically unimproved stock. Furthermore, poor genetic management of broodstock (parents) in some Bangladeshi hatcheries has historically resulted in inbreeding, further reducing Rohu productivity.
Sources at the Department of Fisheries said the improved carp variety would soon be reared at government-run hatcheries too, before the seeds are commercially made available to the farmers.
An everyday staple
In Bangladesh, fish accounts for 60% of consumed animal protein, the majority of which is sourced from domestic aquaculture. Rohu is the most important aquaculture species in Bangladesh and a significant source of food and income for poor farmers.
WorldFish statistics show that approximately 319,000 tons of Rohu fish are produced annually in Bangladesh, representing a wholesale market value of over $950 million.
According to the Yearbook of Fisheries Statistics of Bangladesh 2018-19, with nearly 400,000 tons of annual production, Rohu contributes 10.55% of the country’s annual fish production of inland waterbodies.
In Bangladesh, Rohu (250,000 tons of production) comes third after Pangas (450,000 tons), and Tilapia (320,000 tons), when it is counted on the basis of fish production in pond aquaculture.
The yearly fish output that Bangladesh gets from its beels (massive wetlands), Rohu stands first with 13,152 tons (13.17% of total fish production). In this segment, Mrigal and Catla come next with 9.22% and 8.47% contributions, respectively.
The other waterbodies where Rohu is produced in Bangladesh include: 50,967 tons from seasonal cultured waterbody, 43,874 tons from floodplains, and only 3,121 tons from the rivers.
Globally, more than one billion poor people obtain most of their animal protein from fish, and 800 million depend on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods.
A carp species, Rohu (scientific name Labeo rohita) is found in rivers across South Asia. It is a large omnivore and extensively used in aquaculture.
Rohu occurs in rivers throughout Bangladesh, much of northern and central and eastern India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Nepal and Myanmar. It was also introduced into some of the rivers of Peninsular India and Sri Lanka.
Rohu has a rich ancient tradition of being a crucial part of food menus in the Indian subcontinent, very commonly eaten in Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and the Indian states of Tripura, Nagaland, Bihar, Odisha, Assam, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Uttar Pradesh.
A recipe for fried Rohu fish is mentioned in a 12th-century Sanskrit encyclopedia – “Manasollasa” (meaning "The refresher of the mind"), compiled by Someshvara III, who ruled an area in India, now known as Karnataka.
In this recipe, the fish is marinated in asafetida – known as “hing” in Bangla – and salt after being skinned. It is then dipped in turmeric mixed in water before being fried.
The WorldFish Rohu Genetic Improvement Program, supported by the USAID, aims to substantially increase aquaculture productivity in Bangladesh by developing and disseminating rapidly growing Rohu to farmers.
After starting dissemination of the current genetically improved Rohu seed among farmers, WorldFish also aims at further improving the Rohu growth rate by an average of 5%–10% every two years – the age at which new genetically superior parents can be selected and spawned.
The organization is currently developing a dissemination strategy and business model to underpin a sustainable, genetically improved Rohu program for the country.