Kerala is the foremost fish producing State in India. However 97% of the state production is from marine sector and only 3% is contributed from inland sector. During the past decade, there has been a rapid development in aquaculture. Aquaculture plays an important role in the national economy, in poverty alleviation and providing employment to unemployed mass etc.

The backwaters of Kerala is most prominent with more than 70 edible species which include shrimp, mullets, pearl spots, crabs, oysters, clam, milk fish, scampi, cat fishes etc. Out of the above species, Pearl Spot has an outstanding position among the fish eaters and hence the fishermen in inland water gave more attention to catch this fish. This indigenous fish of Kerala lives in varying water conditions ranging from fresh water to the salty brackish water, found throughout Kerala, especially in Kerala Backwaters around Travancore-Cochin, Malabar and South Kanara along the west coast. The natural dwelling place of Karimeen is ponds, rivers, backwaters, lagoons, reservoirs, paddy fields and low lying wet lands of Kerala.

The Pearl Spot, Etroplus suratensis is one of the most ideal fin fishes for farming. Culture of Pearl Spot along with mullets or shrimps can be taken up which would provide additional income to farmers. It thrives well in various types of waters such as in irrigation wells, domestic ponds, step-wells and temple tanks. As it thrives and breeds even in ornamental cisterns, it has been acclimatized to inland waters in many parts of the country. Success of aquaculture depends on environmental factors, biological factors and health status of farmed species.

Pearl Spot is a hardy species having good flavour and taste. It has equal nutritional value as compared to other animal food products and also affordable by low income groups. Its non-predacious habits and easy adaptability to different kinds of water are useful features for its successful cultivation in ponds and cages. The strong spines on the dorsal and anal fins are to some extent defensive in nature and the medium size predators are generally incapable of doing appreciable harm to Pearl Spot.

A series of interventions like reclamation of shallow stretches of lake into padasekharams, construction of embankments, impoundments, spillways and barrages during last century, all oriented to facilitate and intensify rice cultivation have altered the ecology of the dwelling places of Pearl Spot. With the boom of backwater tourism, the demand for Karimeen, the high valued food fish in Vembanad, is on the increase. Since the indiscriminate exploitation of this most valuable species to the maximum, the further increasing pressure to exploit this species shall lead to a total disappearance of this species from our water. This is evident from the decline in average size of this species in catches.                              

The disappearance of the once luxuriant, mangrove formations in and around the backwaters of Kerala consequent to ecosystem changes and its correlation with the poor breeding recruitment of Pearl Spot is often cited to indicate the direct inter relationship of such fringe vegetation on estuarine fisheries especially the indigenous fish varieties.

Various Committee reports submitted to Government and Central and State Research Institutes pointed out that the Pearl Spot fishery of Kerala is in declining phase. During 1960s, the Pearl Spot fishery of Kerala contributed 17000 tonnes (report of RARS, Kumarakam) and the share of Pearl Spot in the total inland fish production has declined from 10% of total inland catches in 1990-91 to further about 6% in 2002-03. The maximum size and weight of Pearl Spot catches nowadays is also shown diminishing.

Pearl Spot is reported to be a year round breeder in natural environment system with one or two peaks (Krishna & Diwan, 1990). Gravid fish were collected from open waters and size of the fish ranged from 150 to 180mm in length and 110 to 180 gm in weight. Probably May-June and November- December are two breeding periods of this fish. The breeding behaviour of Pearl Spot is complex involving courtship, pairing, nest making and parental care. During the breeding season, the fishes form several groups and courtship commences between some members of the groups and pairs are formed. After the completion of pair formation, the pair bonded fishes search for a suitable object to lay the eggs, since in natural environment, the fishes attaches its eggs to submerged substrata. Hence stones, wood, bamboo pieces, asbestos sheets etc are to be provided in the pond to facilitate egg lying. After selecting the spawning site, the female lie flat in the space and gently moves from side to side attaching the ova one by one in a single layer, through the ovipositor. The male by a similar movement releases milt over the eggs and fertilize them. Fecundity is low and one female fish lays only 800-1000 eggs per batch.

A distinguishing feature of Pearl Spot is the exhibition of parental care of the eggs and young one. The female fish move over the fertilized eggs and fan with her pectoral fins. Both male and female excavate pits near the nest for larvae which hatch out after 4th or 5th day. The larvae are picked up by the mother in her mouth and transferred to the pits. The early larval stage last for 7 days and they come out of the pits and move around. The larvae grow to fry stage in 30 to 40 days upto 30 to 40 mm in size. These fry can be harveste d and used for culture. The scarcity of seed is a limiting factor for developing the culture in vast areas.

Declaration Karimeen as the ‘State Fish’

Karimeeen (Etroplus suratensis) is considered as the brand ambassador of Kerala Fisheries. Karimeen has been approved as the state fish of Kerala by NBFGR (National Bureau of Fisheries and Genetic Resources) and is declared as state fish by Government of Kerala. To promote and protect Karimeen fishery, scheme called “ Karimeen Varsam” has been launched and the scheme is implementing through FFDAs

Components of the Project

Seed Rearing & Sales Units (SRSU)

Adukkalakulam (Kitchen ponds)

Pond culture of Pearl Spot

Cage culture

Pearl Spot seed ranching

Protection of Pearl Spot seed from padasekharam

Training Expenses

Karimeen seed centres

 Ayiramthengu Fish Farm, Kollam

Pallom Fish Fram, Kottayam

Kadppuram Fish Frm, Thrissur

Poyya Fish Farm, Thrissur

Regional Shrimp Hatchery, Azheekode

Pannivelichira Fish Farm, Kozhencherry

National Fish Seed Farm, Malampuzha

Fisheries College, Panangad

Regional Agricultural Research Station, Kumarakom

Private Farmers

Karimeen Seed Price/100 nos

20mm                     Rs 600/

30mm                     Rs 800/nos