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Indigenous fish facing depletion threat

Abdul Latheef Naha



Hunted down:Filamentous barb, an indigenous fish variety, which is under threat of depletion because of indiscriminate fishing.

MALAPPURAM: Indiscriminate fishing in some of the streams and rivers originating from the Western Ghats has led to the depletion of several indigenous fish varieties, according to exports.

Particularly in danger is the redline torpedo fish (Puntius denisonii), popularly called ‘Miss Kerala' because of its ornamental value. Miss Kerala is endemic to the Western Ghats. Usually found in the upstream of River Bharatapuzha, the number of this fish has gone down considerably because of an increase in the value of this variety.

As one Miss Kerala can fetch more than Rs.30 in the local market and up to four dollars when exported, this species is hunted in a large scale. Those seeking exports are catching the fish from the streams in totes and reject all others but Miss Kerala. In effect, the lack of knowledge in selective fishing is affecting the population of several indigenous varieties, including the filamentous barb (Puntius filamentosus), olive barb (Puntius sarana), and the Indian flying barb (Esomus danricus).

S. Suresh Kumar, senior faculty member of the Department of Aquaculture and Fishery Microbiology, MES College, Ponnani, who studied the reasons for the depletion of certain indigenous fish varieties, said apart from indiscriminate fishing, reclamation of water bodies, use of pesticides, and dumping of waste were contributing to the depletion.

“Indigenous fish bring a major income for inland fishermen and low-cost protein for the public,” said Dr. Suresh. Assisted by T.S. Arunjith from his department, he recently launched a project aimed at conserving some of these fish varieties under threat of extinction.

Conservation of the indigenous fish can be achieved by protecting their natural habitat, releasing of fingerlings produced in hatcheries to natural habitats and moving the fish from a destroyed habitat to an artificial habitat. “Using low-cost technology, we successfully produced fingerlings of indigenous barbs in our tanks and released them into a local river,” he said. “We launched the initiative by developing a larval rearing technology,” he said. They bred three varieties of indigenous fish in glass tanks with natural stimulants, and reared them in cement tanks under controlled condition. They also developed the fish feed for different stages.

According to Mr. Arunjith, what they developed was a kind of backyard low-cost hatchery technology. “It can help produce fingerlings of different indigenous fish varieties for commercial production as well,” he said. “We often hear people speak of conservation. But little is done in effect. This project indeed is a great initiative to conserve our indigenous fish,” Mr. Arunjith said.

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