Govt may give ‘state fish’ tag to mahseer to protect species

Fisheries Dept working with Dorbar, cops & admin to stop rampant killing

SHILLONG: The Fisheries Department is planning to declare Mahseer as the state fish to prevent rampant killing of the local species whose population is on the wane.
“The population of mahseer is declining and looks as if they could get extinct. We want to conserve it and from the Meghalaya State Aqua Culture Mission, there is a mini-mission to establish fish sanctuaries. With the establishment of fish sanctuaries, it will be helpful as fishing in these sanctuaries will be strictly prohibited,” The principal of Meghalaya State Fisheries Research and Training Institute, Mawpun, David Kharwanlang, told The Shillong Times.
Mahseer is among the numerous species of fish whose population has been threatened by lack of awareness among villagers.
The department is taking measures to conserve the indigenous and other species from indiscriminate killing by anglers and superstitious villagers.
Kharwanlang said there are places where people use poison to kill fish on the pretext of religious beliefs. “But the district administration intervened and asserted that ponds should be constructed for such purposes instead of choosing rivers for religious rites,” he said.
He cited instances in West Jaintia Hills where the deputy commissioner urged the village to construct a pond for religious purposes.
Another indigenous religious hurdle is in Ri Bhoi. The district administration along with Fisheries Department officials conducted a joint inspection.
“We prevented people from killing fishes but the village went ahead to defy the district administration,” he said.
Though the department is coordinating with the Dorbar Shnong, “the problem is that most of the water bodies are under the jurisdiction of the district council”.
He informed the dorbar shnong are tasked to look after the fish sanctuaries while the department will assist in construction of small dam- a dam upstream about 200m and downstream about 100 m is declared as fish sanctuaries.
“The fishes are allowed to breed in the fish sanctuaries. With the increase in population, the fishes will move beyond the 200 m and 100 m and the people can fish there but not by using illegal means,” he said.
The official blamed anglers for killing fish in many rivers by using dynamite or poisoning the water by using roots of some trees, bleaching powder and pesticides.
“In this way, fishes of various species are killed. Hence, we are working closely with villages to ensure that fishes are not affected by such rampant activities,” Kharwanlang said.
The Fisheries Department, which is coordinating with district administration and police, can also file FIR in case of rampant killings.
The tie-up with Dorbar Shnong has been helpful as fines will be imposed if anglers resort to indiscriminate killing of fishes.
State Fisheries Act
To keep a check on illegal activities of anglers and to conserve fishes in open waters, the department is working on the Meghalaya Fisheries Act.
“… if the government approves the Fisheries Act, the guidelines will be strict. With the Fisheries Act, we can directly arrest any person who indulges in rampant killing of fishes,” Kharwanlang said.
The state, which introduced the Aquaculture Mission in 2012, does not have a Fisheries Act till date.
The department is referring to the Indian Fisheries Act, 1897, which is broad and is pursuing the matter with the Law and the Personnel departments, Kharwanlang said.
Catch & release
The department organised the Fifth Catch and Release Angling competition at Ward’s Lake on Saturday. It is a run-up to the State Aqua Fest to be held on November 6 at State Central Library.
The first prize is Rs 10,000, second prize is Rs 7,500 and third prize Rs 5,000, besides four consolation prizes.
“The catch and release angling competition is aimed at creating awareness on the need to preserve and conserve fishes in our rivers,” Kharwanlang said.

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