NAMERI, May 26 � To mark the World Fish Migration Day, celebrated across the globe on May 24, every year, the Assam Bhoreli Angling and Conservation Association (ABACA) too for the first time in the North-East, organised a day-long programme here at the Eco-Camp on Saturday with various programmes including a seminar aiming at generating awareness among the people on protecting natural resources, saving fish from extinction and in bringing to focus as to why it is important to restrict, if not ban altogether, all types of fishing during the swapping seasons, etc.
The occasion was attended by Dr Anwaruddin Choudhary, Dr Debajit Sarma, Principal Scientist, Directorate of Cold-water Fisheries Research, Bhimtal, Uttarakhand, Pritam Mahan, Commandant, Nameri Based Eco-Task Force among others. Addressing the seminar, Dr Debajit Sarma said that due to the fast environmental changes, the fish breeding spots are decreasing day by day posing a serious threat to the very existence of fishes along with the mahseer. He said, �Twenty years back different species of birds and mammals were available in our jungles, but these are decreasing day by day due to the large-scale degradation of forests. �Due to the denudation of forest areas, rain is also decreasing and so the water bodies remain empty, affecting fish breeding from May to August,� he said.� Giving a lively presentation on how to conserve the wild mahseer, the noted environmentalist said that mahseer, is an endangered species of Cyprinid fish that is found in the rapid streams, riverine pools and lakes in the North-East region along other parts of the world. �It is a popular gamefish, and can reach up to 2.75 m (9.0 ft) in length and 54 kg (119 lb) in weight, although most caught today are far smaller, which has been threatened by habitat loss, habitat degradation and overfishing and it is estimated that it already has declined by more than 50 per cent.�
He added that it is a widely distributed species in south and southeast Asia, with a restricted area of occupancy. However, the species is under severe threat from overfishing, loss of habitat, decline in the quality of habitat resulting in loss of breeding grounds, and from other anthropogenic effects that have directly resulted in decline in the harvest in several locations. In addition, with several dams planned in the Himalayan region, there could be a more drastic effect on their population, blocking their migration and affecting their breeding. The species is estimated to have declined by more than 50 per cent in the past and if the current trends continue and with the new dams being built, the population may decline even up to 80 per cent in the future. The species is therefore categorised as endangered and is in need of urgent conservation efforts. He also highlighted that the species is found across the Himalayan region and elsewhere in south Asia and southeast Asia. In Assam the population is fast depleting and at present is chiefly found in certain major river systems and is fast approaching extinction in the streams and lakes of northern India. Large fishes are only found in some of the perennial pools. This species is declining from its natural habitat due to urbanisation, illegal encroachment, over fishing and chemical and physical alterations of their natural habitats.
Earlier, Dr Anwaruddin Chowdhury speaking on the issue said that there is an urgent need to create awareness among the people regarding the conservation of mahseer. He said that mahseer is the main indicator of other species of the geological world. Another speaker, Commandant of Nameri-based Eco Task Force, Col Nabin Sarma stated that forest areas are being denuded due to the alleged lackadaisical attitude of the Forest department. �We have reforested hundreds of acres of land across the country, but the most tragic thing is that after it has been handed over to the Forest department, it is again deforested.� He felt that without a change in the mindset, forests or greenery cannot be saved. He also said that due to the degradation of forests the ecology is becoming imbalanced, posing a serious threat to all living things including human beings. It is pertinent to mention that the Assam Bhoreli Angling and Conservation Association (ABACA) has set up a hatchery in the Eco-Camp, Nameri for breeding and conservation of mahseer.