There is not a full-time fishermen population as such but about 400 people seem to be engaged in part-time or occasional fishing in the country and particularly in the following river valleys:
|River||Places||Probable number of fishermen|
|Torsa||10–15 km above Phuntsholing||10–15|
|Raidak||From Mathur bridge down to the border. Large number of fishermen live near Bongo village||30|
|Sankosh||Wangdi Phodrang to Khalikhola concentration is near villages like Umadaga, Teental, etc,||100|
|Manas and its tributaries||Shemgong, Pema-Gachel, Tashigong and Lingmethang areas||200|
|Several small rivers||Throughout foothills||50–60|
Castnets and small-mesh traps made of bamboo (Niare) are the only gear used. Due to the swift current, no boats are used. The fishermen are mainly farmers who live beside the rivers in the valleys, No fishermen's cooperatives exist in the country.
Recently, after considering the poor condition of the farmers living by the Mangdi Chu in the Shemgang area, the Government has allowed them to catch fish but for their own consumption only.
The practice of fish culture in paddy fields, or paddy-cum-fish culture, so common in other Asian countries, is virtually unknown in Bhutan. However, one man has recently initiated fish culture in one pond (0.16 ha) in Sarbhang, Sarbhang District, and the results will be watched with interest by all concerned.
There is no government fisheries unit as such. The Department of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry and the Tourism and Forests Departments control the fisheries activities of the country. One fisheries inspector, one fisheries sub-inspector, two assistant fisheries inspectors and five field assistants are the only personnel who look after the fisheries activities exclusively, under the guidance of a farm manager at Wangchutaba and a veterinary assistant surgeon at Ha Dzong. Their locations are as follows:
|Assistant fisheries sub-inspector||-||2|
The fisheries staff working under them have been trained in trout hatchery management in India and have gained considerable knowledge and experience.
Net fishing is banned in the rivers. The Department of Forests issues licences for angling only. The Dzongda (District Head) is also authorized to issue licences for rivers. The form of the licence issued is given in Appendix 2. The licence fee is very high (N 150 for one year, N 100 for six months, N 15 for one day 1) and the licences are mostly issued for a period of one year. About 80 percent of the licences are issued at Thimbu and the remaining 20 percent mostly at Ha, Paro, Byakar (Bumthang) and Tongsa. The details of revenue earned from licences at Thimbu are as below:
1 US$ 1.00 = 8.90 Ngultrum (July 1976).
|May||-||1 225||2 905|
|July||795||1 695||2 195|
|August||440||1 595||1 615|
|TOTAL||1 930||9 190||15 250|
The increase in revenue shows the growing interest of Bhutanese and tourists in angling.
The Department of Forests takes care of conservation but it seems that more staff is needed in order to ensure proper efficiency.
Although no laboratory facilities are available for fisheries, some field facilities exist for the propagation of trout, which were initially stocked in Bhutan rivers in 1930 by Raja S.T. Dorji and which have routinely been stocked since then, The hachery at Ha Dzong was established just after 1930 and the one at Wangchutaba was established in 1975.
These hatcheries have the following facilities:
|Land area||More than 3 ha||0.5 ha|
|Water source||Springs with perennial water supply (6 ft3/ second flow)||Stream|
|Hatchery facilities||11 x 6 x 2.5 m||10 x 3.80 x 2.20 m|
|Rearing capacity (No. of ova)||100 000||5 000|
|(a) cemented||One of 11.4 × 7.8 × 1 m (with partition in the middle)||Two of 10 × 3 × 1.12 m|
|One of 7.8 × 6 × 1 (with partition in the middle)||One of 15.3 × 6 × 1.3 m (sides and bottom with teak wood planks)|
|(b) earthen||One of 27 × 9.4 × 1 m||One of 70 m2|
|Staff quarters||180 m2 (Four for staff and two for store and office)||Three of 11.50 × 6.10 × 3.10 m|
The hatchery at Ha Dzong was being dismantled and it is proposed to replace it with a new one.
About 2 000 brown trout (S. trutta fario) brood fish (average age 3 to 5 years, weight 120–350 g, size 16 to 30 cm) are maintained at Ha Dzong and about 1 000 trout of the same age and size are kept at Wangchutaba.
On an average, 1 000 spawners at Ha Dzong and 400 at Wangchutaba are utilized for breeding purposes and dry stripping is the technique employed at both centres. About 0.1 million and 0.05 million ova are produced annually at Ha Dzong and Wangchutaba, respectively, and about 20 000 fry and fingerlings are reared and stocked in rivers and natural lakes. So far 26 natural lakes had been stocked with a total of 72 000 fingerlings during the last five years. A number of rivers such as the Ha Chu, Paro Chu, Thimbu Chu, Mo Chu, Ho Chu, Chankhar Chu, Mangdi Chu and Manas have also been stocked with brown trout fingerlings.
There are no organized fish markets except for a few shops which deal exclusively with fresh fish on weekly market (hat) days in the large towns of Thimbu, Paro, Punakha, Wangdi Phodrang. Tongsa, Byakar, etc.
Fresh fish is brought from the foothills or imported from India, however, the quality of fish sold in the markets is by all standards very poor and requires strict inspection. Despite its high cost and poor quality, there is a high demand for it due to the Bhutanese liking for fresh fish.
About 435 t of dried fish and 65 t of wet fish are imported annually from India (Tables 5 and 6). Dried fish is imported from India and is sold in a number of shops at Thimbu, Paro, Punakha, Wangdi Phodrang, etc. along with general merchandise. Since fresh fish is not available every day, dried fish meets the requirements of the people. Dried fish is generally sold at N4 to 8 per kg, whereas fresh fish is sold at N10 to 18 per kg.
It was observed that fresh fish is generally sold in all the foothill towns and villages of Bhutan, particularly at Phuntsholing, Gaylegphug and Sandrupjongkhar. Due to distribution problems in the interior areas, fresh fish is only sold in Thimbu, where a proper market exists but there are no arrangements for its storage in proper condition. The fish comes in baskets with ice but, by the time it is sold, the small fish become spoiled. Moreover, particularly carp and catfish of small sizes are sold instead of big fish, which are mostly in bad condition.
At Phuntsholing and Gaylegphug dried fish is sold by Tibetans, whereas the biggest shops are in Dharanga, a village near Sandrupjongkhar owned by Assamese wholesalers. The adviser visited the areas twice, both in summer and in winter. There are six shops and one of them always had a stock of about 7 to 8 t of marine fish from Bombay and 1.5 to 2 t of small sun-dried fish from Assam. From there it is supplied to different interior areas of the eastern and northern parts of Bhutan through Bhutanese shopkeepers.
Considering the present consumption of a total of 65 t of fresh and 435 t of dried fish, the annual per caput consumption works out at 54 and 363 g respectively for a population of 1.2 million. The Bhutanese would much appreciate to have fish if it was available easily and in quantity.
The annual fish requirements for Bhutan, based on providing 100 g of fish in the diet every third day for an adult population of one million people, works out at 12 000 t, which is about 24 times the presently available supply. Considerable potential demand thus exists to develop the indigenous resources, which are by no means meagre.