Fishing and Aquaculture in India

July 23, 2021Lu Shegay


Having 4670 mi (7516 km) of marine coastline, 3827 fishing villages, and 1914 traditional fish landing centers, fisheries and aquaculture are common practices in India. India is home to more than 10% of the global fish diversity and is the second country in the world in total fish production. India’s annual fish production comprises approximately 9.06 million metric tons. Freshwater aquaculture is the major type of fish farming in the country that has grown from 0.37 million tons in 1980 to 4.03 million tons in 2010; it also contributes to more than 95% of the total aquaculture production. Recently, there have been many concerns raised with regard to species diversification despite having lots of endemic aquatic species of animals, such as Labeo calbasu, L. fimbriatus, L.gonius, L.dussumieri, L.bata, Cirrihinus cirrhosa, C.reba, Puntius sarana, P.jerdoni.

Aquaculture in India consists of freshwater and brackish water production. There are approximately 429 Fish Farmers Development Agencies (FFDA) and 39 Brackish water Fish Farmers Development Agencies (BFDAs) and were established to promote freshwater and coastal aquaculture.

"Bunch of Grey Fish" by Engin Akyurt from Pexels


Fisheries is the major industry in the country and is considered the second country in the world practicing aquaculture and third in fisheries. In accordance with the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, fish production dramatically increased during 1950-1951 and 2018-2019.

The total fish production in the country during 2017-2018 was 12.59 million metric tons, contributing 8.90 million metric tons from the inland sector and 3.69 million metric tons from the marine sector. On average, during that period of time, fish production was 10.14%, which was an increased number compared to the previous years. In the 1950-1951s, inland fish production was 29% and has become 71% during 2017-2018.

Read more: Handbook on Fisheries Statistics 2018


In India, freshwater aquaculture’s main species are carp, and shrimp contributes mostly to the brackish water sector. The three major carps in India, i.e, catla, rohu labeo, and mrigal carp contribute more than 90% of the total Indian aquaculture production. Among the catfish, Philippine catfish, stinging catfish are those species that are being bred in swamps and derelict water bodies. In brackish aquaculture, besides shrimps, giant tiger prawns are also kept for commercial purposes. Other aquatic species that are used in aquaculture but not common are finfish and shellfish species. The green mussel, Indian brown mussel, Indian backwater oyster, and Japanese pearl oyster are the major species that are farmed in seawater.

Export and import of seafood products are also common in India. For instance, during 2012-2013, “marine products exports reached an all-time high of Rs 18 856 crores” (1 INR = USD 0.016). “Exports aggregated to 928 215 tonnes valued at Rs. 18 856.26 crores and USD 3 511.67 million. Compared to the previous year, seafood exports recorded a growth of 7.68% in quantity, 13.61% in rupee, and 0.1% growth in USD earnings, respectively. During 2012–2013, frozen shrimp from the culture sector continued to be the major export value item accounting for a share of 51.35 percent of the total US$ earnings. Shrimp exports during the period increased by 20.88%, 18.73%, and 3.56% in quantity, rupee value, and USD value, respectively. There was a steep drop in unit value realization of frozen shrimp at 14.33%.”

The main buyer of Indian marine products is still Southeast Asia with a share of 23.12%, followed by the European Union (22.14%), the United States (21.29%), Japan (10.61%), China (7.67%), Middle East (5.96%), and others (9.22%).

"Rural fishing India" by Phil Bus is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


India regulates any activities related to aquatic animals, fishing, and aquaculture by a few sources on a federal level, which are the Fisheries Act, the Environment Protection Act, the Water Act, and the Wildlife Protection Act. Each state in the country has its own regulations that apply to the respective jurisdiction.

The Environment Protection Act contains the general provisions for all issues that relate to the environment impacting fisheries and aquaculture in India. The Wildlife Protection Act only regulates the activities of fishing of rare or endangered species, i.e, prohibits this act.

In 1996, the Supreme Court of India prohibited establishing shrimp farm ponds, with an exception of traditional and improved traditional ponds on the territory of the Coastal Regulation Zone and the Chilka Lake and Pulicat Lake. In 2017, India also banned the sale of 158 species of ornamental fish and mandated a full-time fishery expert to be present in the Ornamental fish farm for inspection of fish health.

The Fisheries Act provides a very short definition of a fish. The Act only indicates that a fish includes shellfish. (Section 3) The Act prohibits destroying fish by explosives in inland waters and on coasts, i.e, by using dynamites or other explosive substances intending to “catch or destroy any of the fish that may be therein.” This act is punished by imprisonment for up to 2 months or a fine of up to INR 200 (USD 2.69) This provision is general and can be considered vague as this kind of statement is used widely in many countries’ laws on fisheries. This makes it hard to prosecute the crime and actually apply the provision to the offender. Moreover, the fine for committing this crime is ridiculously small, which does not protect aquatic life from similar acts.

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