Water Tiger: Kashmir Loses Mahseer, Its Pride Fish

Water Tiger: Kashmir Loses Mahseer, Its Pride Fish

30 December 2013
Free Press Kashmir
Kainaat Mushtaq

Srinagar: The Mahseer, known among Kashmiri anglers as 'tiger in the water';, all but vanished after Pakistan constructed a dam in the late 1960s that stopped the fish from migrating to India. Earlier conservationists said they were breeding the Mahseer and hope to release them in rivers in Kashmir. The programme which was the result of a peace process between India and Pakistan that has led to a drop in violence in the region, failed bitterly. 'We tried our best and we have bred this fish nicely and reared it out,'; Mohammad Yaqoob, a fisheries official said. 'But later we were asked to shelve the programme for some time.'; Hundreds of Mahseer used to migrate to this side of Kashmir each year until Pakistan completed the Mangla dam in 1967 across the Jhelum river, the traditional migratory route for the fish. The omnivorous red-finned Mahseer, scientifically known as Tor tor, is prized by anglers because of its huge size - reaching up to 2.75 metres (9 feet) and weighing up to 54 kg (119 lb) - and for its fighting spirit. 'Hundreds of Mahseer used to migrate to this side of Kashmir each year until Pakistan completed the Mangla dam in 1967 The fish lives in clear rivers and lakes throughout India and Southeast Asia and needs fast-flowing rivers and streams in the mountains to breed. Finding enough of the thick-scaled carp in the area to breed at a farm in southern Kashmir proved difficult. 'Over time, enough were collected and plan to introduce young Mahseer into Kashmir's rivers and lakes failed,'; Mohammad Yusuf, another official of the Fisheries department said. But he said two new breeding farms are planned in the region, including one in the Uri area, near the Line of Control. 'I am sure this plan will take off in near future.'; Local anglers hoped the programme will bring back an exciting sport. 'The return of the fish will attract more anglers to Kashmir,'; Mohammad Amin, 65, said. 'For me, fishing for Mahseer is only a dream now, the last catch was 15 years ago.'; To fulfill the dream, militancy in Kashmir needs to remain under control. While conservationists welcomed the move to restock Kashmir's rivers with the Mahseer, they said it was crucial the government took a broader approach if they wanted the fish to remain in area for good. Plans to conserve the Mahseer were disrupted in 1989 when militants launched a revolt. 'Over time, enough were collected and plan to introduce young Mahseer into Kashmir's rivers and lakes failed Spiralling violence led to budget cuts and made the programme to unsafe for staff. 'We need to look at this in more detail than just restocking,' said an official of Mahseer Conservation Society. 'We must study the habitat and see what other factors are causing populations to drop and also introduce protected areas as they have done in other Indian states like Uttaranchal and Karnataka.'