Inland Fisheries

The state is endowed with rich resources of freshwater and Brackish water .The state has a total estimated freshwater area of about 3,32,000 ha consisting of reservoirs, rivers, ponds, tanks, irrigation tanks and paddy fields, including nearly 0.70 lakh ha of paddy fields in Kuttanad and Kole lands and 1.20 lakh ha. of paddy fields in Palakkad district. Out of these 1500 ha ponds and tanks and 2800 ha of irrigation tanks are under the administrative control of   Local Self Governments (LSGs).

The paddy fields comprising of 17000 ha of Kole lands distributed in Thrissur and Malappuram districts and 35000 hectares of padasekharams distributed in Alappuzha, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts in Kuttanad. Of this an area of about 1000 ha is currently used for the culture of Scampi/fishes. Utilization of paddy fields for aquaculture will ensure the augmentation of fish/ prawn production in addition to paddy and creation of additional income for farmers especially in rural areas of the State. The paddy fields such as in Palakkad have high potential for freshwater prawn and shrimp culture. These areas are hardly being used at present for aquaculture. Integration of aquaculture can help to raise the income of the rice farmers also.

There is an estimated 1.26 lakh ha area of brackish water resources consisting of 0.65 lakh ha of brackish waters, 0.46 lakh ha. of backwaters and canals, 0.13 lakhs ha. of prawn filtration fields in the state. The 12,500 ha of Pokkali fields distributed in Ernakulam, Thrissur, Alappuzha and Kannur districts which are traditionally used for prawn filtration when the water is saline (November- May). More than 77% of these brackish water areas are left unused. Geographically, inland fisheries have great scope in the State.A unique feature of the State is the occurrence of 53 interconnected backwaters (Kayals) and 44 rivers.

Inland fish production provides significant contribution to animal protein supplies in rural areas of the State. Most of the inland production is consumed locally and marketed domestically. The Inland sector of the State contribute around 1.40 lakh metric tonnes of fish, which accounts a net value of Rs. 122390 lakh during 2011-12. The total population of fisher folk, who depend their livelihood from the inland waters of the State, comes around 2.30 lakh, which accounts 0.69% of the State’s total population. The active fishermen of the inland sector were estimated at 0.52 lakh.

Endemic ornamental fishes


Horabagrusbrachysoma, Mesonoemacheilusguntheri,







Tor khudree,

Tor mussallah etc.,


Freshwater Fish Resources of Kerala

The rivers, rivulets, streams, etc., originated from the Western Ghats are well known for their prosperity of biodiversity including fresh water fish species. Altogether 210 primary fishes (excluding the marine migrants) are found in the inland waters, of which 53 species are endemic. Majority of these fish species have ornamental value also. Today the Western Ghats is recognized as one of the 18 “biodiversity hotspots” in the world well known for their

Recently reported fish Species


Garrasurendranathani, Mesonemacheilusmenoni, M. periyarensis,

Travancoria elongate,

Salarius reticulates and Puntiusmuvattupuzhaensis.

prosperity of biodiversity including fresh water fish species. Altogether 210 primary fishes (excluding the marine migrants) are found in the inland waters, of which 53 species are endemic. Majority of these fish species have ornamental value also. Today the Western Ghats is recognized as one of the 18 “biodiversity hotspots” in the world.

Food fishes native to Kerala

Thooli (Labeodussumieri),

Kooral (Gonoproktopferuscurmuca),

Manjakoori (Horabagrusbrachysoma),

Kuyil (Tor khudree),

Katti (Tor mussallah),

Pulivaka (Channamicropeltes),

Musi (Clariusbatrachus),

Manalvaka (Channaleucopunctatus), Brahmanakandi (Lepidopygopsistypus),

WynadMusi (Siluruswynadensis),

The cultivable food fishes native to Kerala includes Thooli (Labeodussumieri), Kooral (Gonoproktopferuscurmuca), Manjakoori (Horabagrusbrachysoma), Kuyil (Tor khudree), Katti (Tor mussallah), Pulivaka (Channamicropeltes), Musi (Clariusbatrachus), Manalvaka (Channaleucopunctatus), Brahmanakandi (Lepidopygopsistypus), WynadMusi (Siluruswynadensis), etc.

Several endemic fishes such as Mastacembalusarmatus, Horabagrusbrachysoma, Mesonoemacheilusguntheri, M. monilis, Tetradontravancoricus, Puntiusdenisonii, P. aurilius, P. jerdoni, Bariliusbakeri, Tor khudree, Tor mussallah etc., have high ornamental value and now these also attains the status of dollar minting fishes.

Brackish Water Fish Resources of Kerala

Estuaries and backwaters have saline waters and only those fishes, which can withstand changes in salinity, thrive best. The brackish water fishery resources consist of 75 species of which 57 species are from fish, 6 species of shrimp, 1 species of prawn, 5 species of crabs and 6 species of bivalves, 28 species were identified as commercially important. Some species of mullets, catfishes, perches, pearl spot, prawns, oysters, mussels, crabs and clams are the most common.

Cold-water fisheies

Thenmala reservoir, Kulathuppuzha, Palaruvi, Aruvikkara, Gavi, Munnar, Malampuzharivers, Pookkottu lake etc.

Cold Water Fish Resources of Kerala

The high land waters of the State have cold water and that can sustain only the so-called cold-water fishes, and hence have a fishery different from that of the plain. Thenmala reservoir, Kulathuppuzhariver, Palaruvi, Aruvikkara, Gavi, Munnar, Pookkottu lake, Malampuzha and many other streams and rivulets are the home ground of such fishes. Commercially important fishes include Salmo sp., Schizothorax sp. Acrossochellussp, Puntius sp., etc.

Ornamental Fishery Sector of Kerala

Aquarium keeping is picking up as a hobby among the people of the State. This can be evident from the coming up of new ornamental trade units in each nuke and corner of the State. There occur a spurt in the number of aquarium trade/ pet units in the State after the Aqua shows conducted by the State Fisheries Department during the past few years.


Fish Farmers Development Agencies (FFDAs)

This is a Centrally Sponsored Agency with 75% assistance from Government of India, which came to existence with the following objectives:

-         to arrange leasing of water area to fish farmers

-         to bring all the cultivable water area under the scheme

-         to create a new cadre of fish farmers

-         to popularise fish culture

-         to provide increased employment opportunities to rural people

-         to improve rural economy through fish culture

The details of14 FFDAs are functioning in the state are furnished below:




Name of FFDA


Date of sanction by State Govt.

Date of registration







FFDA, Kollam





FFDA, Alapppuzha





FFDA, Pathanamthitta





FFDA, Kottayam





FFDA, Idukki





FFDA, Ernakulam





FFDA, Thrissur





FFDA, palakkad





FFDA, Malappuram





FFDA, Wayanad





FFDA, Kozhikode





FFDA, Kannur





FFDA, Kasaragod





A drastic improvement was seen in the inland fish production of the State through the implementation of MatsyaKeralam project. MatsyaKeralam was an integrated project, ensuring the support of Local Self Governments and implemented in 14 districts. The Project envisaged diversifying aquaculture for enhancing the then fish production of 75,000 tons to 200,000 tons over a period of 3 years. Through the implementation of the project and its wide acceptation by Local bodies and farmers, the inland fish production of the State nearing the mile stone and the present production is 140000 tons. Under the fold of MatsyaKeralam project, in 773 Local bodies aquaculture activities were carried out through 505 newly formulated Fish Farmers Clubs. 450 Aquaculture Co-ordinators were selected to co-ordinate the aquaculture activities in the above Local bodies. 30,600 farmers benefited through this venture. Functioning of Fish Farmers Club facilitated aquaculture promotion and improved management practices, information exchange, timely supplies of quality inputs, crop insurance coverage and product sale. Priority attention has given for capacity building of the farmers to improve local management of aquaculture.

Properly planned activities with continuous monitoring helped better implementation and realization of the objectives. An area of about 5000 ha brackish water and about 5500 ha fresh water area were developed through MatsyaKeralam project. The outcome of the project is much promising as it visualizes by enhancing the inland fish production.

Afforestation of Mangroves.

       Kerala once had over 70,000 hectares of mangroves, fringing its unique estuarine systems. Due to maximisation of exploitation, indiscriminate land use, reclamation activities etc, it has now become reduced to 1650 ha confined to some small pockets of the backwaters the details of which are furnished in Table – 25. More than half of mangrove forests in Kerala are spread over the northern districts of Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasaragod. Kannur has the largest extent of 755 ha Kozhikode 293 ha and Ernakulam 260 ha. More than 80% of this is in private possession, raising doubts on how effectively they can be conserved. The situation demands a concerted effort not only to conserve/preserve the existing mangroves but also to rehabilitate and afforest all the potential areas. Mangroves act as bioshield to storms, prevent floods and sustain a multitude of plant and animal lives. Mangroves play an important role in soil binding, as a source of nutrient cycling, as a breeding ground and nursery areas for many important fin and shellfishes. There is evidence that removal of mangroves leads to decline in finfish and shell fish recruitment and adversely affects biodiversity of fish resources. Isolated species could also be seen in detached water bodies and reclaimed lands along the coastal tract. The highly restricted occurrence of mangroves could be directly attributed to the gross interference of man, who most callously felled them down either to convert these areas for occupation, monoculture practices or for other land use purposes. In many instances, this encroachment to the estuarine domain not only reduced the mangrove vegetation and altered its habitat but also changed the ecological niche of the coastal tract itself. The surviving mangrove species bear testimony to its resilience to adjust themselves to the modified environmental situations.

Distribution of mangrove vegetation in Kerala Coast

Name of District

Undisturbed area (ha)

Degraded/developing area (ha)

Potential areas(ha)

Total (ha)




















































A concise account of the mangroves of Kerala could be found in the works of various authors. Rhizophoramucronata, R.apiculata, Bruguieragymnorrhiza, Barringtoniaracemosa, Cerberaodollam, Derristrifoliata, Achrostichumaureum, Acanthus ilififolius and Avicerviaofficinaliswere reported from Veli in Thiruvananthapuram in 1974. Small patches of Acanthus ilicifolius, Avicenniaalba, Rhizophora sp. andBruguiera sp. are found in the Vembanad estuary.Two species, namelySyzygiumtranvancoricumandArdisialitoralis are unique to Kerala mangrove. Another species, Lumitzeraracemosa, has been found confined to a few sites in Neendakara only. Further, the mangroves found at Veli, Quilon, Kumarakom, Kannamali, Chetvai, Nadakkavu, Edakkad, Pappinisseri, Kunjimangalam and Chitheri were singled out for conservation/rehabilitation.

Due to destruction of mangroves, the aquatic wealth is depleted and the most productive eco-system is destroyed. The bio-diversity of natural fish resource is adversely affected. In order to preserve bio – diversity and conserve the natural habitat, a programme for afforestation of mangroves is implemented through the Fisheries Resource Management Society (FIRMA). A mangrove nursery to raise the saplings is established at Ayiramthengu in Kollam district.   A pilot project for mangrove aforestration and preventing sea erosion has started at Choottad Beach in Kannur district. It is an established fact that the presence of mangroves had protected the coastal villages and the people there, when the Tsunami stuck on December 26, 2004 Mangrove plantations are now being thought of as the best solution to prevent sea erosion along the coast.     


BrackishwaterAquaculture is a dynamic field where revolutionary changes in the realm of technology have taken place over the years. In India, brackishwater shrimp culture originated from the traditional filtration fields has evolved into scientific and semi-intensive models of lucrative commercial ventures. However, the environmental problems and recurrence of viral disease have forced this sector to re-orient the strategy from intensive models to extensive type of sustainable aquaculture in recent years. In the light of frequent outbreak of viral disease, shrimp farmers are looking forward for alternate species of shrimps, fishes and crabs for aquaculture. CIBA has standardized the technology for hatchery production of sea bass (Latescalcarifer) seed and its culture in different agro climatic conditions. Limited success has also been achieved in the seed production of mud crab (Scylla serrata). CMFRI has demonstrated the technology for farming bivalves in the backwaters and estuaries of the state.

An outstanding feature of Kerala is the presence of large number of perennial/temporary estuaries popularly known as the backwaters (Kayals) along the coast. These water bodies have their bed levels at about 1.5 to 1.8 m below the mean sea level and remain separated from the sea by a narrow strip of land having 0.4 to 12km width. Many of the temporary estuaries remain closed during most part of the year by a sand bar formed by the action of the littoral currents and waves of the sea. The majority of rivers remains shallow streams during this time and is unable to force their way into the sea. With the advent of the monsoon rains the rivers swell up and the consequent heavy flow of water leads to the opening of bars with resultant sea-estuary interaction. Narrow in the south, these estuaries expand in breadth as a general rule to the north.These water bodies are connected by canals stretching from Thiruvallam in the south extending up to Ponnani in the north offering an important artery for inland navigation from one end of the state to the other. The entire estuarine system along the coast of Kerala is exposed to tides from the sea and hence water is brackish almost throughout the year. According to conventional estimates the total brackishwater area in Kerala is 2,42,600 ha. Due to various reasons the extent of brackishwater resources has reduced to 65,000 ha                 .

The traditional system of shrimp farming in Pokkali fields, where the age old shrimp filtration practice known as ‘Chemmeenkettu.’ It is carried out after the harvest of paddy.Under the traditional system of prawn filtration is carried out in the low-lying paddy fields adjoining the backwaters. The practice involves cultivation of a special variety of paddy resistant to saline conditions called ‘Pokkali’ during the monsoon season when the water becomes fresh. After the harvest of paddy the fields are prepared for prawn filtration by strengthening the bunds and fixing sluice gates. Incoming tidal water brings in young ones of prawns, fishes and other organisms through the sluice gates that co-exist in the environment. The prawn and fish thus trapped in the fields are grown for a period of about 2 months. Fishing is carried out during seven to eight days on either side of the full moon and new moon periods by fixing a filter net to the sluice during ebb tides.   Besides the seasonal fields this practice is also carried out in the perennial fields also. In this conventional farming, there is no control over the quality or quantity of the stocking material. The rate of productivity is generally low (200 - 500 kg/ha/year). The Pokkali fields an area of 12511.46 ha

Commercially Important Shrimps in Kerala

Scientific name

English name

Malayalam name


Indian white shrimp



Tiger shrimp



Green tiger shrimp



Banana prawn (brown shrimp)



Flower tail prawn   (brown shrimp)

Poovalan or Thelly


Indian prawn



Indian prawn (King shrimp)



Yellow shrimp


Shrimp farming in the state is promoted by various agencies such as Agency for Development of Aquaculture, Kerala (ADAK), Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA) and Fresh Water Fish Farmers Development Agencies (FFDAs). More than 78% of the total area under shrimp culture is distributed in Ernakulam district. Almost 70% of the total aquaculture production is also contributed by Ernakulam district. Ernakulam is followed by Alappuzha (9.40%); Kannur (5.44%) and Thrissur (4.68%) districts in area coverage.         

Brackishwater Fish culture

            Under the traditional method of brackishwater fish culture no selective stocking of species is carried out. A mixure of fish and crustaceans find entry into the fields through tides where they are allowed to grow to marketable size before harvest. It is an established fact that through selective stocking of high yielding species and better management practices the yield can be increased substantially. The commercially important species known to be suited for brackishwater fish culture are the Milk fish (Chanoschanos). Mullet (Mugil sp.) and Pearl spot (Etroplussuratensis). These species can be cultivated as monoculture or as polyculture with crustaceans with good returns.

Cultivable species of brackishwater fishes and molluses



Name of Species


Milk fish (Poomeen)



Mullets (kanambu)



Liza tade





Pearl spot (karimeen)



Sea bass



Crabs (Njandu)

Scylla serrata, S. tranquebarica


a) Mussels

Pernaviridis(Green mussel)

Pernaindica(Brown mussel)

b) Oyster


c) Clams

Meretrix sp.

Katrelysia sp.

Villorita sp.

Paphia sp.

Mussel Farming

The green mussel (Pernaviridis) and the brown mussel (Pernaindica) are suitable for farming in the backwaters of Kerala coast. In North Kerala green mussel is the potential species for farming. Green mussel is widely distributed along the intertidal coast of Kollam, Alappuzha, Kochi, Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasaragod. The brown mussel (Pernaindica) has a restricted distribution and is found along the south west coast from Varkala to Kanyakumari. The Green mussel is abundantly distributed in the intertidal beds of Koduvally, Mahi, Chombala, Moodadi, Thikkodi, Elathoor, Chaliyam, South beach, Anchangadi, Ethai, Njarakkal, Chellanam, Andakaranazhi, Azheekal, Parimanam, Kollam Port and Neendakara.

          Mussel culture in estuaries (rack culture) was demonstrated in Padanna in Kasaragode district Ashtamudi in Kollam district and Chettuva in Thrissur district by CMFRI. In Padanna mussel farming is carried out by women groups assisted by FFDAs, ADAK and DWCRA. Mussel farming is accepted as an alternative avocation generating income and employment to women groups in Kerala.

Oyster Farming

The Indian backwater Oyster (Crassostreamadrasensis) locally known asKadalmuringa is the species suitable for farming in the backwaters and estuarine regions of Kerala. This species is distributed abundantly in Ashtamudi and Vembanad lakes, Kochin backwaters, estuaries and creeks of Dharmadom, Valapattnam, Neeleswaram and Chandragiri

      Edible oyster farming technology (rack culture) is demonstrated by CMFRI in Ashtamudilake. FFDAs, ADAK provides assistance to farmers to set up oyster farms. Oyster farming is carried out by several farmers in Ashtamudilake. It has proved to be a viable project for generating income and employment to the people.


Mud Crab Culture

      It is well recognized that diversification of farming and farming practices has an important role in sustainable development of brackishwater aquaculture. Since shrimp farming has gone through a knotty situation due to viral disease, several farms remain idle for want of alternate species and technology for culture. Considerable interest has been evinced in crab culture since crabs find place as an export commodity among sea food items. The species of crabs available in Kerala are Scylla serrata and Scylla tranquebarica. The crab has high demand in the world market particularly in South East Asia and Middle East countries. The price varies from US$ 6 and to US$ 11/kg depending on i ts size, meat content and the condition of supply. The production of mud crab is taken up either by fattening the adult ones or by farming the young ones in the grow out systems. In Kerala, farming the younger ones in the grow out systems is being carried out on a limited scale in Vypin island. The mud crabs and other portunid crabs an exported in live and processed forms.

           There are three types of farming practices:

1.       Crab farming : Rearing crablets for a period of 5-6 months until they attain market size (over 200g in weight) either in earthen pond or in cages put in ponds/backwaters.

2.       Crab fattening : Growing wild caught mud crab of larger size (8-12cm) for a short period of 20-30 days and harvesting when they are full of meat.

3.       Female crab fattening: Similar to the fattening, but only mature females are stocked and grown to the stage where the ovary is fully developed before harvesting for sale.