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COLD WATER FISHERIES PROSPECTIVE IN NORTH EAST INDIA

B. J. Saud

Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute, Regional Centre, Guwahati-781006

bjsaud@gmail.com


The North Esatern region of India (25o 55/ 12.09// to 27o42/21.28// N and 89o 38/ 22.44// to 97o 04/ 9.67// E) contains a large number of divers type of water bodies which include both lotic and lentic systems. It comprises of eight states and this region is one of the hotspots of biodiversity. These states with their unique topography, diverse physiographic features and varied water quality patterns are a lucrative field for ichthyofaunal diversity with numerable hill streams, rivers and wetland. Nevertheless the region is feed by two major drainage systems, Brahmaputra River system and Barak River system. About 296 species belonging to 35 families and 110 genera has been recorded so far from this part of the country including several new species.


The mountain region of this part of the country is bestowed with vast and varied water resources in the form of rivers, rivulet, streams, lakes, pond and reservoirs. The snow fed Himalayan Rivers are situated between altitudinal ranges from 200 to 8000 msl. And the cumulative length of the major upland river is estimated at about 10000 km. The altitudinal and geographical variations, mountain slopes, expansion of river valleys and vegetation cover has given rise to varying climates in this part of the country. The cold water rivers and hill streams are known for their high velocity water fall, rapid cascade, deep pools and substratum comprising bed rock - boulder - sand. These vast and varied water resources in the uplands harbour rich biodiversity. Cold water fisheries of the country harbour a total of 258 species belonging to 21 families and 76 genera of which 203 species are found in this part of the region.


The cold water resources of these regions harbour some of the highly prized sport fishes in which golden mahaseer (Tor putitora), deep bodied mahaseer (Tor tor) and chocolate mahaseer (Neolissocheilus hexagonolepis) are of world fame. Besides the other food fishes like Semiplotus semiplotus, Labeo pangusia, L. dero, L. dyocheilus, Raimus bola, Anguila bengalensis, Bagarius yarrelli etc. are also alluring market demand holding promising potential to promote recreational fishery in the region. Many cold water river stretches of Jia bhoroli, Subansiri (Assam), Kameng and Siang (Arunachal Pradesh) are known as anglers' paradise.


Besides the sport fishes, the piscine groups snow trout, minor carps, major carps, cat fishes, bagrids, barils, murrels and mud eel are generally used as food fishes in the region. Snow trout comprises Schizothorax richardsonii, Schizothorax progastus are endemic to the region. Salmo trutta ferio (Brown trout) and Onchorhynchus mykiss (Rainbow trout) are exotic species introduced to the region. Amblycep apangi, Amblycep arunachalensis, Labeo devdevi, Osteacheilus neilli and Colisa labiosus are endemic to Arunachal Pradesh. Few new species like Mystus microphthalmus, Garra gravelyi, Neolissocheilus stracheyi, Exostoma stuartii, Salmostoma sladoni, Semiplotus modestus, Chagunius nicholsi, Homaloptera rupicola, H. modesta, Mystus pulcher are recorded new from the Manipur. Other dominant hill stream fishes are Schizothorax molesworthii, Crossocheilus latius, Chagunius chagunio, Psilorhyncus balitora, Barilius barna, B. shacra, B. bendelensis, B. telieo, Botia derio, B. rostrata, Nemacheilus botia, N. manipurensis, N. kangjupkhulensis, N. goroesis, N. kempi, Conta conta, Barilius vagra, Garra garra, Garra annandelei, Garra gotyla, Garra kempi, G. naganensis, G. tirapensis, Glyptothorax conirostris, G. horai, G. cavia, Sisor rabdophorus, Eresthistes hara,E. jerdoni, Gagata gagata, Gagata cenia, Schistrura rupicola rupicola, Lepidocephalichthys arunachalensis etc.


Some very colorful and fascinating species with great ornamental value are also inhabiting different aquatic resources of the cold water zone. Hence the north eastern region of the country is known as repository of ornamental fish species. Around 187 are known for their ornamental value out of the 203 species reported.


But owing to complex microclimatic conditions coupled with thermal variables, the production of the cold water system is still at a very low pace. Fish farming practice is very discouraging in upland water to date though the attempts for fish farming in the upland state of the country have been initiated since 1863 by Sir Francies Day. Trout farming was initiated in the NE hill state of Arunachal Pradesh in 1967-68. However the culture fishery is in its infant stage in this part of the country. The important factors responsible for its poor development could be attributed to non availability for natural ponds, land unsuitability for pond constructions in most of the places due to high gravel — sand percentage in soil, high seepage, non availability of natural quality seeds, temperature linked low productivity and lack of proper support and extension facility in the region.


Presently small scale carp farming is gaining popularity in the hill region. Owing to simpler farming techniques in culture of common carp, grass carp and silver carp emerge as popular species for low cost hill aquaculture. The carp culture is more profitable by integration of fish farming with dairy, horticulture, agriculture and paddy cum fish farming. In NE hill region (Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur) rohu and/or chocolate mahaseer are farmed along with grass carp, silver carp and common carp @ 3-4 fish /m2 in farmer's pond with provision of supplementary feed @ 203% of their body weight. Paddy cum fish culture has gained popularity in the Apatani plateau of lower Subansiri district of Assam and the adjoining agricultural field above 1500 msl. This meager resource available in the hills could be integrated with carp farming for poverty alleviation and livelihood support particularly in the rural and tribal areas. There is also a need to harness the resources on a sustainable basis. Collection, rearing, breeding and marketing of ornamental fishes could provide a lucrative profession to the progressive farmers, unemployed youths and others in the region.


Fish population in general and mahaseer population in particular are on decline in North east India notably in the rivers of Meghalaya and Mizoram. Scientist has opined that one of the suspect of environmental degradation in the altered ecology and destruction of both breeding and feeding grounds is due to multipurpose river valley project. Two major factors are responsible for the dwindling population of fish species because of hydropower stations first the bounding of the river and practically negligible provision of fish ways/fish ladders. The bounding walls create an obstacle to the free movement of fishes searching of food and breeding grounds and secondly the alteration in the ecological features of the region.


Fishing in hill streams is a difficult task. Most of the fishing gear operated in hill streams is inefficient to utilize the fishery resources. Cast net, gill nets, scoop nets, Chinese dip nets, and different types of traps are generally used. Apart from these, indigenous fish practices have been utilized by local communities. Bheta (obstruction in the river) is an effective fishing technique used in hill streams but practiced during winter only. Of late some destructive fishing methods have come into force to get more catch. Use of portable generators, agricultural pesticides, chemicals, dynamiting etc., are becoming a threat to the hill stream fishery as they kill both the target and non target species along with their eggs and young. In addition to this, extraction of boulders from hill streams is another threat to the hill stream fishery as it altering the habitat of hill stream fishes.

It is therefore the need of the hour to take some scientific measures to protect and conserve the diverse endemic hill stream fish faunal diversity in this part of the country.


References

  1. Ghosh, S. K. and A. P. Lipton, 1982. Ichthyofauna of the NEH region with special reference to their economic importance. ICAR Spl. Bulletin No. 1 (ICAR Research Complex, shillong), pp. 119-126.

  2. Kar, D., Laskar, B. A., Mandal, M., Lalsiamliana, Nath, D. 2002. Fish genetic diversity and habitat parameters in Barak drainage, Mizoram and Tripura. Indian Journal of Environment and Ecoplanning 6(3): 473- 480.

  3. Kar, D., Laskar, B. A., Nath, D., 2002. Tor sp. (Mahseer fish) in river Mat in Mizoram. Aquacult 3 (2): 229-234.

  4. Mahanta, P. C., Singh, S. D, Sarma, S. D., 2012. Coldwater fisheries development in India with special reference to North-east India, pp. 32-43. In. P.C. Mahanta et al., (eds.). Sustainable Utilization of Mountain Fishery Resources of North-east Region. Souvenir, Workshop, 24-15 March, 2012. DCFR, Guwahati.

  5. Nath, P. and Dey, S. C., 2000. Fish and fisheries of North East India (Arunachal Pradesh). Narendra Publishing house, Delhi. 217 p.

  6. Sen N. 2000. Occurrence, distribution and status of diversified fish fauna of north east India. Pp.31-48. In: Poniah and UK Sarkar (eds.) Fish biodiversity of north east India. NBFGR. NATP Publ, 2,228 p.

  7. Sen T. K. 1985. The fish fauna of Assam and the neighbouring Northeastern states of India. Occasional paper No. 64, Records of Zoological Survey of India, 216 pp.

  8. Sinha, M. 1994. Fish Genetics Resources of the Northeastern region of India. J. Inland Fish Soc. India, 26(1): 1-19.

  9. Vishwanath, W., W. S. Lakra and U.K. Sarkar, 2007. Fishes of north East India. NBFGR, Lucknow, India, 209 pp.

  10. Viswanath, W.1012. Fish diversity of North-east India - A Glimpse, pp. 28-31. In. P.C. Mahanta et al., (eds.). Sustainable Utilization of Mountain Fishery Resources of North-east Region. Souvenir, Workshop, 24-15 March, 2012. DCFR, Guwahati.





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