40 fresh water fish species under threat, finds study

As many as 40 fresh water fish species in Karnataka are under 'threat' and urgent conservation measures are needed to ensure their survival, says a study by Environment Management and Policy Research Institute (EMPRI).

However, the number of species under serious threat due to anthropogenic interferences could be higher, as numerous reports indicate decrease in numbers as well as diversity in various river systems. As a response to the problem, Pilikula Nisargadhama at Vamanjoor near Mangalore has come up with a Rs nine-crore conservation project to protect the fresh water fish species of the Western Ghats range.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Pilikula Nisargadhama Society Executive Director J R Lobo said the project would be implemented in two phases. The first phase, called ‘Conservation of Western Ghats species and display,’ will concentrate on creating an artificial eco-system for collecting fresh water species and these will also be displayed for the public.

An area of two acres has been allotted on the banks of the Pilikula Lake for the project. Aquariums, artificial ponds and flowing water would be combined to create the breeding atmosphere. The tender for the first phase will be floated within a fortnight and the project is likely to begin by January 2012, he said.

The Nisargadhama intends to complete the project by end of next year, informed Lobo. The first phase will cost Rs one crore and the funds have been allotted by the Centre, he added.

Phase II of the project will have aquariums for various species and will concentrate on breeding fish. The proposal will be sent for approval by this year end to the government, says Lobo. He adds this phase will continue for a span of three years and will cost Rs eight crore. As many as 201 fresh water species of fishes have been recorded from rivers, lakes and wetlands of Karnataka according to EMPRI (in 1999).

The fish will be collected by experts from different fresh water bodies using non-destructive shore seine nets to have minimal damage on the fish. Minimal numbers will be collected and any undesirable fish and non-required sizes will be released back into the habitat, Lobo said.

Benefits

Lobo says, the project will give an insight into the biodiversity of the habitat in protected areas, lead to probable discovery of new fish and plant species, give an insight on anthropogenic effect on the habitat and help in identifying the presence of invasive species. Based on the success of the project, an annual ranching programme of the fish could be undertaken to boost the species’ population in the wild, he says.

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