COLD WATER FISHERIES
PROSPECTIVE IN NORTH EAST INDIA
B. J. Saud
Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute, Regional Centre,
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
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
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
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.
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Seafood - Fish - Crustacea
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