Animal Conservation

Sikkim declares ‘Copper Mahseer’ its state fish in hopes of tackling illegal fishing practices | The Weather Channel – Articles de The Weather Channel

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Sikkim government declared endangered Neolissochilus hexagonolepis, commonly known as Chocolate or Copper Mahseer and locally referred to as Katley, as the “State Fish”.

The name Chocolate Mahseer was given due to the morphological color of the body of this fish. The ICAR-National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources (ICAR-NBGR), Lucknow, had classified Katley as an “endangered species” in 1992. Much later, in 2014, it was classified as “endangered” even by the world conservation body, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In India, the Katleys are mainly found in the Himalayas, particularly in the northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and Nagaland. In Sikkim, the Katleys are found at various elevations covering the entire state, mostly confined to the Teesta and Rangit rivers and their tributaries. There are up to 48 species native to Mahseer in Sikkim, an official said.

Katley migrates upstream for breeding, and spawning takes place on rocks and gravel. Spawning occurs April through October, peaking August through September. Fish fecundity is 3,500 per kilogram of body weight. The maximum growth and length of Katley fish recorded weigh 11 kg and 120 cm, respectively, “said the recent notification from the Fisheries Directorate of the Department of Livestock and Veterinary Services of Sikkim.

“The Katley is the most sought after fish by fishermen in the state because the fish has a high consumer demand and a relatively high market value,” says the notification (number 780 / Fish) of August 26, published in the Sikkim Government Gazette (Extraordinary) September 2.

This aspect of the fishery and its market value have raised concerns about the future of “endangered” fish. Because, in addition to declaring the Copper Mahseer as a state fish, the Sikkim government has also declared that the state’s reservoirs will be open for fishing activities, according to another notification on August 19.

“A license will be issued by the Fisheries Directorate to individual fishermen or fishermen’s cooperative societies or SHGs interested in fishing in the reservoirs in accordance with existing arrangements under the Sikkim Fishing Rules, 1990,” he said.

However, environmentalists questioned whether the move was aimed at ensuring conservation or the livelihoods of fishermen and food for fish lovers.

The Director of Fisheries, N. Jaswant, argued that the measure had been taken to legalize fishing activities. “There was a lot of illegal fishing going on. Fishermen used electric current to kill fish etc. A random sample survey has shown us that there has been an almost 25-40% reduction in fish over the past decade.

He said the notification to declare this fish as a state fish will help keep the fish in rivers and ensure that the supply of the most popular fish is not disrupted.

“We will ensure that the SOPs set by ICAR are followed. Reservoir and cage fishing will increase the numbers, and we will also send them to the river.”

There are more than two dozen hydroelectric projects, completed, under construction and proposed across Sikkim. Fish habitats are disturbed by such infrastructure developments, especially dams / reservoirs for power generation which divert rivers and affect the natural flow and depth of water in a given river channel. The Mahseers must travel upstream during the breeding season, and physical structures such as dams hinder this movement.

Allaying fears, the Sikkim government official said many new dams have fish ladders in their designs. “We will be inspecting the existing dams to see if they can be upgraded to the same layout.”

Jaswant said the government recently changed Sikkim’s fishing rules and will soon amend Sikkim’s fisheries law, which he said will allow the ministry to “take legal action” against those who fail. engage in illegal fishing.


The above article was published by a news agency with minimal title and text changes.

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