Fish Biodiversity of Jammu and Kashmir State
Masood H. Balkhi
Faculty of Fisheries, Rangil, Ganderbal, Kashmir, Sher-e- Kashmir University of Agricultural sciences & technology of Kashmir, India.
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Jammu & Kashmir is rich in aquatic resources ranging from roadside ditches, ponds, pools, water-flows, fountains, wetlands, springs, rivers to the voluminous lakes in the plains and the high-altitudes. These water bodies play a great role in the socio-economic status of the people of Jammu & Kashmir and produce a variety of flora and fauna. The Ichthyofauna of Kashmir is appreciably different from rest of the country and is mainly represented by the coldwater Schizothoracine group. About forty-one species of fish are reported from Kashmir, majority of which belong to the genus Schizothorax. Studies during last 10 years reveal presence of only 22 species from Kashmir including Gurez and Ladakh. About one hundred species of fish are reported from Jammu waters but only forty-three species have been recorded during past 10 year studies from different waterbodies of Jammu. The validity of many of these species needs to be confirmed, as there exists a lot of confusion in the present status of the exact number of fish species of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Therefore, fresh studies are warranted to update the present status of Ichthoyofauna in the state in general and Kashmir in particular. The Barilius species and the Golden Mahseer (Tor putitora) dominate the fish catch composition in Tawi river and Chenab river system respectively in Jammu while in Kashmir the catches are dominated by the common carp (Punjeb gaad) in the lacustrine waters and the snow-trouts (Kaesher gaad) in the riverine waters. It is observed that some of the Schizothorax fish species have almost disappeared from the scenario. A few species have either been synonymised or renamed by some recent workers. The population of Schizothoracine fish has drastically decreased over the years either due to the introduction of exotics or the anthropogenic pressures. Schizothorax esocinus that was once reported abundantly in Dal Lake is poorly represented in the lake. Similarly, almost all species of schizothoracid fishes have been wiped off from Khushhalsar Lake & Brarinambal Basin of Dal Lake due to organic pollution. Among other things, breeding grounds of the fish have been destroyed over the years especially by filling large areas of waters in the peripheries. In order to save the fish biodiversity of the state especially the schizothoracine fish from further deterioration, immediate conservation measures need to be undertaken which may include check on pollution, abstinence from destruction of breeding grounds of fish and development of hatcheries for mass quality seed production of trouts (esp. brown trout), snowtrouts & golden mahseer for aquaculture and/or ranching. Detailed studies are also warranted on impact of introduction of exotics on the local fishery and its environment before their release in open waters. There is urgent need to establish a “Fish Biodiversity Park” in the State for conservation of the existing first germ plasm for posterity.