More emphasis on hassar in effort to advance fish farming

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THE National Aquaculture Association of Guyana (NAAG), in partnership with sector stakeholders, is advancing the fish farming thrust.
NAAG President, Mr. Beni Sankar said, while the primary focus is on tilapia, attention will soon be turned to the production of hassar on a wider scale.
“There are big markets for hassar, right here in Guyana, as well as in the diaspora,” he said, adding that, together with paku and tilapia, they are some of the newest farm produced seafood.

He said the NAG thrust is largely supported by the Agriculture Diversification Programme (ADP), which is being funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) with US$21.9M and counterpart funding, of US$1.1M, by the Government of Guyana (GoG).
The target of the project is to increase exports of non-traditional agricultural commodities and establish services and institutions to sustain higher income derived from also exporting fruits, vegetables, livestock and farm grown fish.
According to Sankar, producing hassar has several upsides, apart from the earning it would secure for the fish farmer.
“Hassars are bottom feeders and help to keep the quality of water right and that is only one of the benefits,” he explained.
According to the Institute of Marine Affairs, hassar (Hoplosternum littorale) is found naturally from northern South America to Central America; it occurs locally in the lower reaches of most of the rivers south of the Northern Range. This fish with its own protective armour of two rows of bony plate-like scales is found in fresh water swamps during the dry season. As the water recedes, catching hassar is easy. Some fisherfolk use a cast-net, some hook and line while others use the trapping method.
Sankar said, while there are several persons involved in fish farming, their focus is on the more lucrative product, tilapia.
However, he reiterated that the markets exist, only that there is not yet enough focus on hassar cultivation.
But he is optimistic that will change soon through NAAG’s efforts.
“We have the market. Hassar will work. The problem is that, right now, we cannot fulfill that demand, which is why there needs to be more focus on hassar,” Sankar maintained.
He said, until that time come, Guyanese will continue to get their hassar the usual way.
A recent visit to Region Five (Mahaica/Berbice) found people fishing at the roadside, in vicinity of Abary, offering their catch for sale to passersby.