By Fazal Khaliq
After years of recession the fishing industry in Swat is booming again with the fisheries department claiming that the production of trout fish would soon surge to 240,000 kilogramme annually and Swat would become one of the highest trout producing districts in the country.
During the Swat insurgency period from 2007 to 2009 most of the trout fish farm owners left their business as they said the militants would demand trout fish free of cost and they lost huge money. However, the 2010 floods wreaked havoc on the fishing industry, washing away the fish farms along with destroying natural fish fauna of all types of fishes in Swat River and all other smaller rivers and streams.
“The floods destroyed all the 27 trout fish farms along with natural breeding and feeding grounds of Swat and other local fish in the Swat River and all the tributaries, streams and lakes,” assistant director fisheries, Ibrar Ahmad, told Dawn. He said that the total production of trout fish before 2010 was estimated at 50 tonnes.
He said that the floods also destroyed the lone government hatchery located at Chail Madyan.
Private fish farm owners in Swat said that the years from 2007 to 2010 proved bad for them as during the militancy their business activities halted because tourists stopped visiting Swat and majority of the militants took trout fish without paying money.
Khurshaid Alam, a trout fish farm owner at Biha village in Matta tehsil who has been connected with the business since 2004, said that till 2007 his farm was profitable, but after that during insurgency period militants would take trout fish from his farm free of cost which resulted in heavy financial losses for him.
“During the militancy I suffered Rs2.50 million losses as Taliban did not pay a single penny to me. When normalcy returned after military operation in 2009 and no sooner did I take a sigh of relief that the flood washed away my entire farm worth Rs4 million in 2010, leaving me penniless,” he told this correspondent.
However, with the help of USAID and fisheries department his fish farm was rehabilitated in 2011 and he was also provided trout fish seeds and feeds with all other equipment. “Now my business has been successfully revived and my small fish farm produces about 13,000 kilogramme trout fish annually,” he said.
Swat valley has great potential for trout fish and more and more people are trying their luck in the business. According to people in Kalam, the first survey for trout fish was conducted during the former Swat state in which the area from Madyan up to Kalam, Utror, Gabral, Matiltan and Usush was termed the most suitable for trout fish farming.
“The first successful experiment was conducted in 1953 to breed trout fish in Swat River and since then the production has been on the rise. In our area, for both the trout fish farms owners and those who catch them in the river it is the major source of income,” said Shamsul Haq, a resident of Kalam who at first used to catch trout fish in the river, but recently established two trout fish farms and intended to establish more.
The 2010 floods had destroyed all the 27 trout fish farms along with the natural breeding and feeding grounds of fish in the Swat River and all its tributaries and lakes, says fisheries official Ibrar Ahmad
He said that the trout fish in Kalam and upper belt was famous for its taste and it was used as a gift. “We used to catch trout fish in the Swat River with rod whenever special guests came to us,” he said. He said that there were more than 100 glacial lakes in Swat and these were the most suitable sites for trout fish where the government must carry out stocking activities. Of late, the fish industry saw a gradual uplift because both the governmental and non-governmental sectors invested in the industry.
Assistant director fisheries Ibrar Ahmad said that with the USAID funding the 26 trout fish farms which were destroyed by the floods were rehabilitated while the government rehabilitated its own hatchery. “At least 26 trout fish farms have been constructed by the government after 2010 floods taking the number of such farms to 52,” he said.
He added that a project titled “Development of Farm Fisheries in KP” has been launched by the provincial government on 50/50 public-private partnership and under which construction work was underway on 35 trout fish farms. About 10 of these farms are near completion,” he said.
Similarly, construction work on 29 more such farms would soon be initiated under the public-private partnership by the provincial government.
Mr Ahmad said that the total number of trout fish farms in Swat would reach to 116 taking the annual production from presently 6,000kg to 240,000kg. “It will generate Rs204 million as an annual revenue. Thus trout fish industry will become the third cash crop after fruit and vegetables in Swat,” he said.
He said that a fish biodiversity centre had recently been completed at Nagoha area which would soon start working on breeding Swati fish, trout and carp along with Mahaseer in the centre. “It is the first centre of Pakistan where breeding of warm water fish, cold water fish and semi-cold water fish in different seasons of the year will be carried out,” he said.
According to the fisheries department, Swat is famous for brown trout and rainbow trout. “In hatchery we rear rainbow trout and in natural water bodies we rear brown trout. In the entire Asia, Swat valley has got uniqueness that Kamloop trout can easily be reared here which is one of the types of rainbow trout and is bigger and more expensive than the normal trout,” he said.
Mr Ahmad said that extensive gravel mining and disposal of drain water in the Swat River had also badly affected the natural breeding and feeding grounds for fish which must be controlled.
Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2018