The species is critically endangered Hump Backed or Orange Fin Mahseer
Kushalnagar/ Mysuru: The youth who had caught a 38-kg fish at Harangi backwaters in Kodagu district on Apr. 29 is in a fix now as the fish has turned out to be Mahseer (not Catla as reported earlier). Angling Mahseer is prohibited as it is on the list of endangered species.
Soon after the youth, identified as Praveesh, caught the giant fish and uploaded the photographs on social media, the same was published first in ‘Star of Mysore.’ The fish was later sold in the local market. The news caught the attention of Fisheries Department in Somwarpet taluk who identified the fish as the endangered Mahseer.
A team comprising Fisheries Department Senior Assistant Director K.T. Darshan and others, seized the fishing tackle, hooks and other angling equipment from Praveesh. The Department has issued a notice to the President of Harangi Kaveri Meenugarara Sahakara Sangha, which has bagged the contract for fishing in Harangi backwaters.
Though the Association has the rights to fish in the Harangi backwaters, it cannot catch Mahseer as it is endangered species. The Association President said that a complaint will be lodged against Praveesh for catching the rare fish. Darshan said that though the Mahseer has a little resemblance to Catla, it is two different species. While Catla variety can weigh up to a maximum of 30 kgs, Mahseer can weigh up to 60 kgs, he said.
“The fish the youth had caught could be 20-year-old. It is very difficult to catch Mahseer and it could have been accidently caught. Karnataka’s first Mahseer Fish Rearing Centre is situated in Harangi. Over 35,000 fingerlings of Mahseer varieties are produced and released by the Centre into River Cauvery and the Harangi backwaters every year in order to conserve the species,” he added.
According to Naren Sreenivasan Member, Governing Council and Conservation Sub-committee, Wildlife Association of South India (WASI), a conservation group, the fish that was caught in Harangi was ‘Hump Backed or Orange Fin’ Mahseer. This fish is listed in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List as “Critically Endangered”, just one level away from “Extinct in the Wild”.
It is the largest of all known species of Mahseer in the world and it is endemic to the Cauvery River and its tributaries, and not found anywhere else. “The research field work conducted by WASI volunteers in conjunction with the Forest and Fisheries Departments of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have so far identified isolated populations in a few rivers of the Cauvery Basin,” he said.
Based on a proposal made by WASI, the Western Ghats Task Force has made a recommendation to the Government to declare the humpback Mahseer as the State Fish of Karnataka. WASI appeals to all anglers and fishers to release all Mahseer back into waters. “The fish may be photographed, weighed and measured in the shortest possible time (to minimise air exposure which is detrimental to the fish) before release,” Naren said. More information can be obtained