IMPHAL, April 26 - An Amazon sailfin catfish, a fish from the Amazon river basin in South America, which was recently detected in the aquatic ecosystem of Manipur, has raised serious concerns in the state about invasion by a foreign species.
The fish � also known as sucker mouth catfish � was caught by a fisherman on April 22 from the Waishel canal in Bishnupur district where the largest freshwater lake in the North East is located. This one-foot-long fish is said to be a prolific breeder and fast spreading species. The algae-eating fish can grow up to 49 cm and weigh up to 310 gm.
According to fish experts here, the species was reported from the Ganga river at Patna some years ago. It was also reported from the Brahmaputra in lower Assam, but not from any other Northeastern state.
Expressing concern over the development, Senior Scientist (Fishery) Dr Ch Basudha Devi of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), North East Region, Manipur centre, said that detection of such species from water bodies in the state was not a good sign because their presence may demolish the aquatic diversity of the region.
Associate Professor Yumnam Lokeshwor of the Department of Zoology, Assam Don Bosco University, said that as there is no native predator to control them, the Amazon species will start expanding and occupy the entire habitat and start competing with Manipur�s native species which are already low in number.
Manipur�s water bodies are increasingly becoming populated by alien fish species. Some of them have been let out for commercial purposes by the authorities, and some get released accidentally due to lack of necessary regulations.
Lokeshwor said more than a dozen alien fish species, including seven authorised exotic food fishes, two authorised larvicidal fishes, three unauthorised exotic food fishes and fiver other freshwater ornamental fishes, have been found in the state�s water bodies, and with the increase in their numbers, some species have emerged as a threat to native species.
In the recent past, the IUCN had listed seven native fishes of Manipur as endangered freshwater species. Even the state fish Pengba has vanished from the wild and is now only bred in farm ponds.
�The state fishery authorities must launch a new policy to monitor the introduction of new species, including exotic aquarium species, as this hobby is increasing day by day,� Lokeshwor said. ICAR scientist Basudha Devi also echoed a similar feeling.
Acknowledging the issue, Fisheries department Director N Gojendro said the department was taking up the matter with higher authorities to formulate a comprehensive guideline for import, culture and marketing of fishes in the state.