The history of aquaculture in Bhutan can be date back to the 1980s with the establishment of a cultivable carp hatchery in Gelephu under Sarpang district. Aquaculture has been flourishing well in the southern parts of the country. In 2005, realizing the potential of freshwater fishery coupled with the people’s growing preference for fish, the National Coldwater Fishery Centre was re-opened in Haa. The centre then was working towards the promotion of cold water aquaculture and fisheries in the country.
The first batch of 20,000 rainbow trouts eyed ova were introduced from Kokernarg Trout Farm under the Department of Fisheries, Jammu and Kashmir, India in 2007 (Tshering 2007). Subsequently, a batch of eyed ova was introduced from Norwegian Trout Farm, Patlikuhal Himachal Pradesh, India in 2013. Again a batch of rainbow trout eyed ova was procured from Trishula Farm, Gandaki, Nepal in 2015. Since April 2015, the centre has been procuring fish seeds with the triploid breed from Troutex Denmark.
Bhutan is a mountainous country with abundant freshwater resources providing a suitable environment for rainbow trout farming. Likewise, freshwater aquaculture suits clean and organic trout production that have an advantage in our market. Rainbow trout culture, both for consumption and recreational fishing, has now become a well-established tourist industry throughout the world. As per the DoL 2021, two semi-commercial and a commercial rainbow trout enterprises were established at Haa and Paro. The rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) is only a freshwater fish species reared for production in Bhutan. Now, rainbow trout farming is gaining popularity in the western part of the country (Tshewang 2021). Unlike warm water aquaculture, trout meat can be a niche product in the Bhutanese market owing to less competition across the border. Rainbow trout meat is only a product that can be exported if the production is in large quantity.
In this regard, the NRDCR&LF, Haa under the DoL, MoAF is providing the technical and financial subsidies for the promotion of rainbow trout enterprise as per the Cost Sharing Machenasim for the RNR Sector, 2021. As per the 12th Five Year Plan, the centre has planned to support six rainbow trout enterprises and the centre has already an approved budget to support one rainbow trout enterprise for the financial year 2021-2022. Likewise, as per the draft DoL strategy 2040, the centre has a target to produce 100 metric tons of rainbow trout by end of 2025. So far, the centre has capacity to produce 30 MT annually from three rainbow trout enterprises and production from the Commercial Rainbow Trout Farm Facility, Haa under Bhutan Livestock Development Corporation Limited.
Therefore, to achieve the 12th FYP target, Annual Performance Agreement 2021-2022 and to fulfil DoL strategy 2040, a letter of Understanding was signed between the NRDCR&LF, Haa and Modern Farming Youth Group on December 1, 2021. The LoU is aimed for smooth implementation of the development activities and future operation of the Rabdemo Bhutan Trout Farm.
The LoU was signed at the NRDCR&LF conference hall in the presence of Chief Dzongkhag Livestock Officer, DLS, Chhukha and Deputy Chief Economic Development Officer (Youth Focal Person) Dzongkhag Administration, Chhukha.