Native Fish in troubled waters

Native Fish in troubled waters

Aggressive promotion of carp decline native species

Sajad Bhat

SRINAGAR: Waning of local species, aggressive promotion of species such as carp, and singular emphasis on tourist numbers have led to a decline in fish production in Kashmir’s lakes – Dal and Wular – besides other bodies of freshwater.
This according to a research paper titled ‘Lake fisheries in Kashmir’ which shows how the introduction of the carp species of fish in Dal lake and heavy siltation in Wular lake have led to a consistent decline in the production of schizothorax commonly known as snow trout, a native species of fish.
Fish production, along with agriculture, contributed 23 percent to the economy of the state only few decades ago. But the revenues from the sector have since diminished – mainly because of the introduction of non-native species and rapid shrinking of lakes.
“Besides this, negative externalities of tourism, such as excessive growing of vegetable crops on floating gardens leading to algal blooms, have all led to a decline and destruction of the breeding grounds of the local fish species,” the paper reveals.
Jaleela Masrat, a student of Environment and Water Management in Sri Pratap College Srinagar, said that the water bodies have witnessed massive pollution and encroachment in last two decades. The Dal Lake, a main tourism attraction in Kashmir, has shrunk from 58 square kilometers in 1953 to 11 square kilometers. The lake has also lost 12 meters in depth.
“Increase of toxic elements have widely disturbed the aquatic habitat across the Kashmir Valley. Which directly affects the species dwelling within these the water bodies,” Masrat said.
Dr Gowhar Bilal Wani, a scientist at SKUAST-K in Shuhama, says the breeding pattern and aquatic conditions of water bodies for the local fish species was a reason for the decline.
“Floating gardens, Solid and Liquid waste dumped in water bodiesleads to algal blooms, have all led to decline and destruction of breeding grounds of local fish in Kashmir. On the other-hand carp has tendency to survive and can breed in such aquatic conditions,” Wani said.
Moreover, Wani said, that the government should have carried out proper research on carp before introducing it in any of the local water bodies.
He added, “We are undertaking research how to increase the breeding patterns of schizothorax and we will come up with our suggestions.”
Among other reasons suggested for the decline in native species are illegal poaching. “I pay 1000 rupees to the Fisheries department for angling while as I see many people catching schizothorax illegally in the same water body under the nose of the officials,” Tawheed Rehman, an angler from Srinagar told Kashmir Reader. He says the department should take stringent measures to check this menace.
A local fisherman, Bilal Ahamad Kaar, alleges that the priority of the government was revenue generation from tourism, rather than conservation and development of fisheries. He said that the fishermen, who derive their primary income from lake fish, not only favour schizothorax fishery, they also want to increase total fish production.
While the Fisheries department is busy promoting non-local fish species, foodies still prefer the local breed. “Schizothorax tastes way better than carp or other non-local fish,” says Asif Bashir from Srinagar who savors fish. He says the Fisheries department should promote local breed rather than other species.
J&K Government’s Department of Fisheries, however, claims that it was committed towards the overall development of the fishery sector. “We are trying to maintain the balanced stock of local species such as Schizothorax along with carp which would increase the net fish production of the state,” said an official of the department. He added that special care will be taken to ensure a sustainable stock of native species.
“Carp culture can be promoted as a separate freshwater aquaculture activity in other water bodies, which would yield good income and help maintain the supply of fish to the markets,” he added.



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