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Prelims Capsule


What is Cage Aquaculture? Know all about it- Factors, Advantages & Disadvantages

What is Cage Aquaculture? Know all about it-  Factors, Advantages & Disadvantages


  • GS 3 || Economy || Agriculture || Agricultural Extension Services

Why in news?

  • Recently, The Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Government of India organized a webinar on “Cage aquaculture in Reservoir: Sleeping Giants”  as a part of  “Azadi Ka Amrit Mohatsav”.

What do you mean by Aquaculture?

  • Aquaculture refers to the production of aquatic animals and plants under controlled conditions. According to FAO, aquaculture is understood to mean the farming of aquatic organisms including fish, crustaceans, molluscs, and aquatic plants.
  • Various types of aquaculture
  • Fish Farming
  • Algaculture
  • Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture(IMTA)
  • Inland Pond Culture.
  • Recirculating Systems.
  • Flow-through / Raceway
  • Open-net pen and Cage Systems

Status of Aquaculture in India

  • India is the world’s second-largest aquaculture producer of fish (after China). 
  • India is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of fish, accounting for 7.7% of worldwide fish production.
    • Fisheries are in fact, India’s single largest agricultural export with a growth rate of 6-10% in the last five years. In comparison, the growth rate of the farm sector in the same period is around 2.5%.
  • Fisheries and aquaculture production contribute around 1% to India’s GDP and over 5% to the agricultural GDP.
  • Around 28 million people are employed in the fisheries sector in India. The sector has immense potential to more than double the fishers and fish farmers’ incomes, as envisioned by the government.

Cage Culture

  • A cage or net pen is a system that confines the fish or shellfish in a mesh enclosure.
  • It is an aquaculture production system that consists of a floating frame, net materials, and mooring system (including rope, buoy, and anchor) with a circular or square-shaped floating net to retain and culture vast numbers of fish and can be deployed in a reservoir, river, lake, or open ocean.
  • Cage farms are set up to take advantage of natural currents, which offer oxygen and other natural conditions for the fish.

Factors Contributing to Cage Culture

  • Cage culture uses existing water resources (ponds, rivers, estuaries, open ocean, etc.). so optimum resource utilization.
  • Increasing fish consumption, Demand of protein rich food, dwindling wild fish stocks, and a bad farm economy have all contributed to a rise in interest in cage-cultured fish production.
  • Alternatives to traditional crops are being sought by many small or limited-resource farmers.
  • Because of the enormous yields possible in the cage culture system, it has the potential to contribute significantly to India’s overall fish supply.

Pros/Significance of Cage Culture

  • Profitability – Cage culture is a low-impact farming approach that produces great returns while emitting the least carbon.
    • The average net income from Catla fish farms is over Rs. 100,000 per acre per year but with proper management, net profits of Rs. 150,000 per acre per year can be achieved.
  • Expanding Prospects- Aquaculture appears to be a rapidly growing business with opportunities on a small scale as well.
  • Better Utilization of India’s Long Coastline- Cage culture can be used to better utilize suitable spots along India’s long coastline, extensive brackish water areas available in coastal states like Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and other underutilized water bodies.
  • An alternative source of income- This farming method is appropriate for small-scale fisherfolks as an alternative revenue source because the investment is inexpensive and requires very little / no land area.
  • Less requirement of labor- Because the labor involved is modest and can be managed by a small family, this can be done as a home/women’s activity.
  • The cage’s design, as well as its attachments, can be customized to meet the specific needs of each farmer.

Challenges to deal with 

  • The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) points out that nearly 90% of the global marine fish stocks have either been fully exploited or overfished or depleted to the extent that recovery may not be biologically possible.
  • Hazardous substances – Discharge of harmful substances like plastics and other waste into water bodies that cause devastating consequences for aquatic life.
  • The nutritional requirement is high- The caged fish must be fed a nutritionally adequate diet that is kept fresh.
  • LDOS- Low Dissolved Oxygen Syndrome (LDOS) is a common occurrence that may necessitate mechanical aeration.
    • Water contamination and eutrophication will result from the accumulation of unused feed and excreta.
    • Fouling of net cages- Aquatic species in cages are overcrowded and can also lead to fouling.
  • Vandalism or poaching could be an issue.
  • Issues with Navigation- There are troubles with navigation and movement of the fishes.
  • Within the local community, there are conflicts.
  • Vulnerable to Predation- Due to less navigation and free movement they become vulnerable to predation by other aquatic animals.
  • Poverty of fish farmers – They are not able to purchase technologically advanced types of equipment to improve the harvest of fish.
  • Pollution adds to the misery- The water bodies(rivers, lakes, ponds, and coastal areas of the seas) are increasingly
  • Unutilized potential
    • It is a matter of great concern that India can exploit only a fraction of the aquaculture potential available to it.
    • India uses only about 40% of the available ponds, tanks, and other water bodies for freshwater aquaculture and 15% of the total potential of brackish water resources.

Steps taken by the government

  • Blue Revolution 2.0/ Neel Kranti Mission
    • The focus of the Blue Revolution 2.0 is on the development and management of fisheries.This covers inland fisheries, aquaculture, marine fisheries including deep sea fishing, mariculture, and all activities undertaken by the National Fisheries Development Board.
    • It aims to achieve the economic prosperity of fishers and fish farmers.The same will be done by sustainably developing fisheries keeping in view biosecurity and environmental concerns.
    • Doubling the income of fishers and fish farmers with a special focus on increasing productivity and better post-harvest marketing infrastructure including e-commerce and other technologies and global best innovations.
    • Enhancing food and nutritional security of the country.
  • Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) 
    • The Scheme was launched as a part of  Budget 2019, aimed to turn India into a hotspot for fish and aquatic products through appropriate policy, marketing, and infrastructure support.
    • With the Scheme, the government intends to bring all fishermen under the ambit of farmer welfare programmes and social security schemes.
    • Through this scheme, the Department of Fisheries will establish a robust fisheries management framework. This will address a critical gap in the value chain including infrastructure modernization, traceability, production, productivity, post-harvest management, and quality control.
    • In budget 2021 , the Allocation of Rs. 804.75 crore for PMMSY. The target is set to 20 million tonnes by 2022-23.
    • The river ranching program was introduced recently as a special activity under PMMSY for enhancing fish production and productivity.
    • This program will help in achieving sustainable fisheries, conserving biodiversity, assessing ecosystem services, reducing habitat degradation, and maximizing social-economic benefits.
  • Sagar Mitras
    • “Sagar Mitras” mentioned in budget 2020
    • Target to raise fishery export to ₹1 lakh crore by 2024-25.
    • Aim to promote growing algae, seaweed, and Cage Culture (growing of fishes in existing water resources in a net cage which allows free flow of water.)
  • Initiative Taken under the MGNREGA-The government under the MGNREGA has started to develop the farm ponds,where pisciculture is taking place.

Way forward

  • To ensure good returns to farmers, a robust cage culture system in reservoirs, including potential markets, is required.
  • Development of scientific methods- Scientists and State/UT Fisheries Departments must motivate fish farmers and develop novel methods and strategies for improving earnings, lowering input costs, diversifying species, and enhancing the production and productivity of cage culture systems in reservoirs.
  • Effective management- Cage aquaculture must be promoted in the country’s reservoirs by implementing sound management practices and offering support services.
  • India needs to develop its fishing system and other related aspects such as freezing, packaging, etc.
  • Taking cues from various states
  • Gujarat
    • Gujarat shifted from an insistence on cooperatives as lessees of ponds and tanks to a public auction and changed the tenure of lease from a single year to several years.
    • Created a huge incentive for the entrepreneurs.
    • Strengthened the ponds, replenished water when it started drying up, and spent money for protection against poachers.
  • Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh- Cage fisheries in large reservoirs in Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh has developed to a great extent. Training, seed production, marketing, and Investment in water bodies replenishment and new pond creation played a huge role in achieving the milestone.


  • If provided with significant impetus in the investment sector,  India can grow to the extent of a 10 trillion dollar economy as against 2.7 trillion dollars today with the help of the Blue Economy.

Mains model Question

  • Discuss the importance of cage aquaculture, referencing the recent webinar “Cage Aquaculture in Reservoir: Sleeping Giants.”  Suggestions for overcoming various challenges in the activity are welcome.