Natural Fisheries Facing Extinction in Karbi Anglong

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Wetlands in the hill district of Karbi Anglong consist of hilly streams and small perennial rivers originating from Singhason hill range and the Borail range of Dima Hasao district. The geophysical condition of water area is almost identical in the west and central parts of the district. This district was once very rich in the production of indigenous fish.

Due to drastic reduction of the endemic species in these wetlands, hybrid class have taken its place, cultured internally.

The joy of fishing delicate indigenous fishes is hastily vanishing in the hills chiefly due to the lack of any vision or plan of the Fishery department, coupled with human greed. The natural fisheries are being steadily annihilated.

In addition, most natural fisheries within the administration of the Forest department are also facing exploitation in the absence of protection and scientific management. The forest department have miserably failed to conserve the water bodies of rare endemic fishes of Karbi Anglong. These natural wetlands are hounded illegally without the slightest regard for the departmental regulations. Explosives, poison, and high voltage electric current are used randomly for fishing inside reserve forests and natural water bodies. This has drastically reduced the growth of endemic species in natural water areas.

“The Fisheries Rule of 1953, (modified in 2005), declares that, catching egg-bearing fishes and fingerlings, use of prohibited masri nets, ber nets, grill nets of interlock type less than 7cm to 14cm outlet is prohibited from April 1 to July 15 every year” said a fisheries department officer.

“Fishing by draining out water, using thick nets, using explosives, electric shock, poisoning in the upper stream of rivers and streams are some of the damaging customs used. Random practice of these injurious methods have almost extinguished some very rare varities of fish from the hills of Assam,” the same source added.

Assam fisheries department has some rigid law and prohibitions as regards catching brooders during monsoon, certain major and minor carp like mali, rohu, bahu, chitol, below 9 inch and mali, kurhi, bhagon not exceeding 3.9 inch are prohibited from harvesting from the months of August to October.

Beside irrational harvesting of fish from the natural water bodies, haphazard and unplanned construction of Irrigation dykes, damming of large rivers for hydro power generation, construction of village roads have weighed down the flow of water to marshy areas from rivers and reservoirs. This has prevented the usual movement of fish, especially during the breeding season, resulting in reduced amounts of fish production.

Sushanta Roy is a journalist in Assam, India, who photographs and writes about the people, animals and flora of Assam, and the things that affect them.