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Issue of August 2005 

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IT in Fishing

Harvesting the high seas

Technology and fishing? The image that pops up is most likely of a fisherman listening to weather reports on the radio. However, there is more to technology in fisheries than this. by Anil Patrick R

If the picture of a fisherman hauling nets filled with catch is your idea of technology (or its absence) in fishing, think again. There is a lot of computing power and technology that works behind the scenes to ensure that a fisherman gets his catch.

Firstly, today’s fisherman is as comfortable with technology as anyone else is—in fact, more so than many. It is quite common to see fishermen in Kerala and the rest of the country using cellular phones and technologies such as GPS (Global Positioning System). While GPS helps them chart their way, cellular phones help them finalise prices with buyers before reaching the shore. It is interesting to learn that technologies such as this have been around since early 2000.

While this is the scenario at the user’s end, technology has conquered the backend as well. IT is being used in fisheries for conducting marine research, predicting catch, identifying potential mariculture sites, biotechnology research for aquaculture, and so on.

Mapping The Ocean

One of the biggest uses of IT in fishery is in estimating India’s marine fish catch. IT plays a major role in this since mathematical and statistical modelling applications are used here.

Established by the Government of India under the Ministry of Agriculture in 1947, the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) is at present a member of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. The institute uses data collected from the Indian coastline (extending from Gujarat to West Bengal) to predict fish catch. Data is collated and centrally processed to estimate yield at the CMFRI headquarters in Kochi. Software developed in-house is used for fish stock assessment. “We found that we are able to come out with marine fish-catch estimates much faster with the help of IT. It is extremely beneficial since we have to estimate fish yield on a region-wise basis (four regions across India) every month,” informs Prof M J Modayil, Director, CMFRI.

CMFRI uses Geographic Information Systems to identify potential mariculture sites. IT is also used to drive routine official tasks such as e-mail and payroll management. According to Dr M Srinath, Head & Principal Scientist, FRA Division, CMFRI, “Work is also being done on biotechnology. This includes studies on delineation of stocks using IT.”

Currently, CMFRI is in the process of connecting all its centres to its headquarters using leased lines. Once this project is complete, the institute will be able to come up with results even faster. Since the institute is involved in projects such as the National Marine Fisheries Census, it is looking to this network to provide a significant boost when generating research reports and profiles.

Aqua Mining

Central Institute of Fisheries Education (CIFE) is a fisheries university (deemed) that uses IT for quantitative genetic analysis. The application is used for statistical analysis of breeding data.

CIFE is involved in fisheries research where quantitative genetic analysis is required. The biggest problem that the institute faced was the inability to handle and analyse with high levels of precision the large amounts of breeding data generated. At present, CIFE uses the SAS Analyst module to do research data analysis and quantitative genetic analysis.

Anil Patrick can be reached at

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Indian Express - Business Publications Division

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