For the first time in Sri Lanka, successful captive breeding of Asian arowana (Scleropages formosus) has been recorded in the Polonnaruwa district recently.
The species is considered as a high valued ornamental fish in the international market and the local market as well. This fish is generally called as 'lucky fish' in Sri Lanka and famous as Dragon Fish in Chinese culture as it resemblance the Chinese Dragon, an auspicious symbol. At present, arowana is among the top imported live fish species in to Sri Lanka to fulfill the growing local demand from aquarium hobbyists.
The value of an arowana in the local market varies from Rs. 5000 to Rs. 500,000 based on the size, colour and the other body features. Therefore, the commercial expansion of arowana production will be a turning point for the ornamental fish industry in Sri Lanka while it will substitute imports.
International trade of arowana is controlled under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora Fauna (CITES). However, CITES allows Asian arowana to be traded when they are bred in captivity with proven records.
Breeding of arowana is not an easy task, it requires a lot of ground facilities like larger size earthen ponds, good broodstock and a breeder with good skill of breeding. It takes approximately 3-4 years to prepare a broodstock for breeding.
D.M. Wimalsiri, the owner of Oasis Fish Farm at Polnnaruwa and Managing Director of Shine Aqua International Trading Pvt Ltd, has fulfilled all above requirements patiently and is the one who achieved this difficult task of breeding of arowana for the first time in Sri Lanka with his long-term efforts and professional fish breeding skills.
EDB has identified Wimalasiri as a professional fish breeder and a good entrepreneur during 2008-2012 when the EDB implemented a project in the Polonnaruwa district to increase the export supply base and the quality of arowana.
At that time, he was President of the Ornamental Fish Growers Association established by the EDB in the Polonnaruwa district. Having identified the potential for ornamental fish farming for export in the Polonnaruwa district, EDB, with the support of other relevant government agencies, implemented the above project in order to increase the supply base for export and to improve the quality of fish produced from Polonnaruwa. He was among one of the 225 beneficiaries under the project which had a significant impact on the lives of people in the Polonnaruwa district, where it has eventually become the supply hub for ornamental fish exports from Sri Lanka at present.
Wimalsiri is the top supplier of fish for export from Polonnaruwa at present, having a number of ponds in an area of 28 acres of land. He has the biggest outgrower network in the industry of more than 525 small-scale well-established suppliers connected with him, which provides a livelihood for more than 1,000 farmers in the area in addition to the 50 people directly employed by him on his three farms located in the Polonnaruwa district.
He has been further assisted by the EDB with a grant of Rs 1.5 Mn to set up a quarantine facility under the fish quality improvement project implemented by the EDB during 2012-2015. With this support given by the government and with his own effort, he is now ready to explore the international market.