Economy, Business And Markets

Fish Farming in the Heart of Desert

Fish Farming in the Heart of Desert
Fish Farming in the Heart of Desert

Faced with a persistent drought for 18 years, Kerman has been struggling to maintain a balance between its pistachio gardens and deserts that currently account for 34% of the province’s area.

Severe water shortage has triggered mass migration from 20 cities and hundreds of villages in the province. Nonetheless, in the face of all the adversity, some inhabitants have resorted to a rather unusual enterprise in a province as dry as Kerman to earn their livelihood: fish farming.

“Kerman is one of the few provinces of Iran that has had aquaculture on its agenda and due to the persistence of its fish farmers, the sector has been thriving year by year,” Mehr News Agency quoted Raha Abolqasemi, director of Fisheries and Aquatics Department at the province’s Agricultural Jihad Organization, as saying.

Kerman has thousands of fish farms. Fish farmers breed both cold- and warm-water fish species such as sturgeon, tilapia and aquarium species. They also produce fingerlings and a unicellular organism called artemia (brine shrimp), which used to thrive in Lake Urmia, but is lately facing extinction.

Abolqasemi said artemia is produced in several cities of Kerman and the province is able to meet a “sizable portion” of domestic demand.

Brine shrimp has significant economic value, as it is a valuable source of feed for freshwater fish and shrimp. It contains more than 52% protein and 4% fat, and the combination can meet all their nutritional needs.

Kerman’s aquaculture sector is, however, working far below capacity.

“We have the capacity to produce 5,000 tons of aquatics annually,” he said.

Some 7,000 areas in Kerman are suitable for fish farming and the government is taking measures to help exploit the province’s potential.

“To spur the sector, the government is providing a wide range of facilities,” he said, adding that the government welcomes investment in the sector to support activities that promote efficient water consumption.

Local fish farmers have been breeding aquatics in both fish farms and also in plantations and gardens. The latter is part of integrated fish production, which includes the production, management and comprehensive use of aquaculture, agriculture and livestock.

Integrated aquaculture can reduce costs on fertilizers and feeds in fish culture and maximize benefits. It also provides a platform for dual-purpose usage of the water resources allocated for irrigation of farms.

“As much as 95% of Kerman’s water resources are allocated to agriculture. It means we use roughly 6.6 billion cubic meters in the sector,” Abolqasemi said.

“By promoting such practices as integrated fish farming, the government is planning to optimize water consumption in agriculture.