On a personal visit to India in April our Chair, Ian Pett, was able to fulfil a long-held plan to visit the Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s Directorate of Coldwater Fisheries Research (ICAR-DCFR) at Bhimtal in the Nainital District of Uttarakhand. See http://www.dcfr.res.in
ICAR-DCFR’s work focuses on three fish: rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), the golden mahseer (Tor putitora) and the chocolate mahseer (Neolissochilus hexagonolepis). Farming rainbow trout is now a commercially important activity in North India, and ICAR-DCFR’s research and support is critical to this industry. But while the mahseers are a valued food species, they grow too slowly to be commercially viable, so ICAR-DCFR’s work on mahseer concentrates on extending our scientific knowledge of the species, hatchery breeding techniques, and conservation in their natural habitat as endemic species.
Unfortunately, the Acting Director, Dr Debajit Sarma, who is also Secretary of the Coldwater Fisheries Society of India, was away on duty travel, so the visit was hosted by two scientists working on mahseer research, Dr Mohamad Shahbaz Akhtar and Dr Prakash Sharma. Ian met scientists working on a wide range of mahseer topics, including genetics, bacterial, fungal and viral pathogens, and early sex identification, in their laboratories and toured the stock tanks and hatchery. Among the topics discussed was the challenge of ensuring that stocking with hatchery bred fish is not targeted at rivers where their introduction could adversely impact other endemic species of mahseer.
The experimental closed-system rainbow trout rearing facility was impressive. This recycles the same fixed water supply, which could potentially allow trout rearing where there isn’t a reliably constant flow of naturally occurring water. The mahseer hatchery, located close to the Bhimtal lake, is another integrated system designed and built by the ICAR-DCFR team.
Having already heard about the popularity of ICAR-DCFR’s Himani Aquarium from local residents, Ian took the opportunity to pay a visit. This is open to the public 6 days a week for the modest fee of 10 rupees (15 US cents) but free for school visits and has a well-maintained and beautifully displayed collection of the principal species to be found in cold water in India.