The team on the bank of the River Kaveri in Dubare, Coorg
Andy Danylchuk takes a blood sample from a mahseer in Coorg to test for glucose and lactate levels
Delegates assemble at Bannerghatta
Brief Summary of the Findings of the International Workshop on Mahseer Management and Conservation in Karnataka - Steve Lockett
It’s been a whirlwind start to the mahseer conservation and recreational angling workshops and assessments. The three days fishing in Valnur, the Coorg Wildlife Society controlled area of the River Cauvery, and a detour for Adrian and I to the back-up venue, WASI Lake, saw 48 mahseer sampled.
As part of the rapid assessment, the fish underwent a variety of tests which were designed to measure how well they recover after being caught by angling. The results (to be released at a later date as part of a full scientific papers programme) were startling and showed that mahseer are a very robust fish.
We also took a variety of readings and samples to establish the ages , growth rates and genetics of all the fish caught.
This will, again, lead to future updates and some interesting, possibly controversial findings.
On the first workshop, 15 people, including the lead scientists, representatives from the controlling bodies of the areas fished and Dr Johnsingh as the honoured guest debated the findings and how they should be reported to the main workshop.
Professor Steve Cooke stressed that “anglers want to do the best things for fish and try to do the best things for fish.” As Adrian agreed, and has stressed many times, without rigorous scientific research, there is no basis on which to qualify what is, or isn’t the best thing for fish like mahseer.
The overall output was that a ‘best practise’ guide should be produced in a variety of formats for wide and general release to all possible stakeholders.
On the second day’s workshop, the previous day’s delegates were joined by a wider group of fisheries scientists, selected anglers and three more honoured guests in Saad Bin Jung, Romulus Whittaker and Dr Ramakrishna, Joint Director of the Fisheries Office for Karnataka state.
A series of reports and papers were presented covering the findings of the rapid assessment against a background of the history of mahseer angling, the future possibilities for conservation and angling, and the wider picture of habitat and expected fish needs.
Neelesh Dahanukar of the Indian Institute of Science and Education (Pune) presented the most recent findings about Tor spp of the north Western Ghats region. He confirmed the viability of T khudree and T kulkarni, but expressed strong doubts about the status of T neilli and T musullah. Indeed, from study of the type specimen of T musullah, the current observation is that the species as known should be reclassified as Hypselobarbus musullah.
As a follow up, Rajeev Raghavan showed the DNA barcoding of a range of fish identified by sight as various Tor spp. This clearly demonstrates that the fish of the River Kaveri are neither T khudree, nor T musullah.
Andy Danylchuk told the gathering that tackle companies in the USA have told him ‘the fish is the client, not the angler.’ This thread continued into the idea that a
price can be put on each fish given the amount of revenue that recreational angling
generates. This kind of ‘price per fish’ should be conveyed to the higher decision makers like state and central government to show how well recreational angling can be used to drive local economies when compared to the price of a fisherman taking a fish to sell at market. Later debates, including the talk given by Dr Ramakrishna, also stressed the need to balance recreational angling with the sustainable food needs of local people. Shyam Aiyappa told the
delegates how Coorg Wildlife Society successfully keep this balance, with restricted rod numbers and local handline fishers allowed to take small numbers for personal consumption.
After the presentations were finished, an open forum debate began. During this process, many local concerns were directed to the top table with Steve Cooke, Andy Danylchuk, Adrian, Dr Ramakrishna, Romulus Whittaker and Sanjay Molur providing both answers and direction for further discussion.
The importance of habitat and purity of native species formed a large part of the first question. This followed into how future research can be shaped for best effect.
Fish identification, possibly with the help of a new pictorial guide, was one of the highlighted needs. This was answered by Rajeev, who suggested that he and others are working as fast as they c n to lay down a firm basis for the identity of Tor spp. Once reasonable and reliable identification is completed, Rajeev assured the floor that all stakeholders will be informed and the information widely disseminated.
With special thanks to:
Coorg Wildlife Society for arranging lodgings, bringing anglers and allowing use of their stretch of the river for the assessment
Wildlife Association of South India for allowing use of the lake and cottage facilities
Jungle Lodges and Resorts for hosting the team and the conference at Bannerghatta Reserve Park
The Mahseer Trust is delighted to congratulate
IAN PETT as the lucky winner of this fantastic competition. See our News page for more details.
Throughout the world, among sport anglers and wildlife enthusiasts, there is an enormous amount of admiration and respect for the “noble” Mahseer and it is our hope that many of these will wish to support the aims of the Trust. Although the Trust is based in the UK, we aim to work in partnership with conservation organisations in India, with Indian scientists and universities and, indeed, to engage worldwide, with individuals and organisations with an interest in Mahseer biology and conservation. By so doing, it is our hope and ambition that these great fishes will thrive and allow future generations to continue to appreciate their magnificence.
The Mahseer Trust has the following aims:-
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