One of the most delectable fish in Tamil Nadu, priced at between Rs 1200 and Rs 1500 per Kg, Ayirai may finally get state recognition as the Fish of Tamil Nadu. Dr. S. Felix, Vice-Chancellor of Tamil Nadu Fisheries University (TNFU), speaking to the Hindu said, "We are discussing the formalities with the Director of Fisheries and other higher officials. Kerala has already declared Karimeen as the State fish and murrel has gained that status in Telangana."
He further said that the government has asked every State to identify its own official fish species. It is to be noted that TNFU has been successful in growing the fish in pond culture and sees great potential in the technique. Dr Felix also said, "The fish has huge commercial value and our Finance Secretary K. Shanmugam is keen on developing techniques for cultivation of the fish. We are planning to set up two research centres, one in Madhavaram in Chennai and another in Parakkai in Kanniyakumari district, once we get funds from the government. We have already started functioning in Madhavaram."
Highly priced in the market, the fish is available in lakes, ponds and rivers. The fish is said to have been raised successfully by a fish farmer from Vaduvur in Thanjavur district, Pughalendhi. Incidentally, he was also given technical support from the institute. Dr. K. Karl Marx, Dean, Faculty of Basic Sciences, Institute of Post Graduate Studies (IPGS), TNFU, OMR Campus, speaking of the venture said, "Two years ago, he approached me for guidance on raising fish through pond culture. I asked him to try his hand at Ayirai and it proved to be a great success. He raised Ayirai as an inter-crop with other carp fish species. There is a huge demand for the fish and we have to concentrate on further research to meet market requirements."
In fact, it is said that scientists of Central Institute of Fresh Water Aquaculture (CIFA) have visited Vaduvur to witness the harvest. Dr Marx further added, "After the harvest, the fish weighing approximately 3 grams each will be conditioned before taken to the market. In this conditioning process, the fish’s gut is cleansed naturally, making it fit for cooking."
He said, "The fish has nutritional and medicinal value since it is consumed as a whole. Ayirai consumers get more calcium as the bones are not discarded."