May 7, 2016 Sreya Dutta

Save the Iconic Golden Mahseer (India’s ‘Goldfish’) Again!

Golden Mahseers (Tor sp.) have been a legendary sports fish of India with a very high table value. Mahseer is acclaimed as a world famous, outstanding game and food fish of India. As a sports fish, it provides unparalleled recreation to anglers from all over the world, even better than salmon. The Mahseer is known as a tiger in waters, because of the fight it musters to wriggle off the hook. In the past, Mahseer formed a substantial natural fishery in the major riverine and lacustrine ecosystems of India. In commercial fisheries, it occupies an important position for its good quality. For fishermen, Mahseer is of considerable importance because of its large size. As a food fish, it is highly esteemed and fetches the highest market price in north and northeast of India.

Mahseer

Mahseer fish are found in various rivers of India. In particular, the Mahseer fish of the Ramganga valley of Uttarakhand is critically endangered. The Golden Mahseer in the Ramganga river, which flows through the Jim Corbett National Park, became endangered to the point of extinction due to illegal fishing and the use of explosives to kill and catch fish. Using cheap explosives and dynamite, can damage the entire ecosystem of the river in a jiffy and takes years to recreate from scratch. Conservationists launched a program to save the freshwater fish by explaining to villagers that saving the Golden Mahseer would also help save the high-profile tiger, as the fish was part of the tiger’s food chain. More information in this article.

After all the conservation efforts, the Golden Mahseer is once again seen in the waters of the Ramganga river. But my recent trip to the Ramganga valley made us witness the sad return of the illegal river blasting for the Golden Mahseer fish again.

Blasting Golden Mahseer between Baluli and Jamun at Ramganga Valley, Almora, Uttarakhand

b2ap3_thumbnail_Waterfall

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On the way back to Vanghat from the hike to the waterfall, we, Harsh, Rohit, Venkat, and Sreya, witnessed some people running away after seeing us near pull no. 5. Two men in shorts were running away downhill carrying their clothes, and another guy ran uphill and was hiding from us.

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After we got over our surprise, we saw one guy by the river bank with a small horse, catching the fish in the water and hiding them in the sand. After catching a few fish, he would load them on his horse in gunny bags full of sand. Seeing us come down, this guy dropped the large Mahseer he caught and went back to his horse and waited.

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We went down and then could see several dead Mahseer fish floating to the top and getting washed downstream. Though we didn’t hear the sound, it was clear that a crude explosive was used as the fish were floating out in single and groups as we stood and watched helplessly.

b2ap3_thumbnail_FishermanHolding-Mahseer

We took some pictures after we realized what was happening. When we went on the hill top on our way back, the man at the river bank continued to remove the Mahseer hidden in the sand and loaded them on the horse.

Otter Spotted in 2013

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It was really sad to see everything go backward after all the investment into the conservation of the iconic Golden Mahseer. Two years ago when I visited, I also saw a beautiful otter at this stunning location. I can imagine how the otters and all other aquatic life get destroyed in such explosions, massively damaging the entire ecosystem of the Ramganga river.

We believe that we need to do enough for the livelihood of the locals to prevent them from participating in activities which will destroy not just the Mahseer fish, but all the other river species in a jiffy and wipe out the entire Ramganga river’s ecosystem in one go!

Related links to read more on the Golden Mahseer conservation.

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