A fish species in missing evolutionary link traced

These have special features; they can live on land and in water

CUDDALORE: A rare fish species called “mudskippers” have been recorded by researchers of the Centre for Advanced Study in Marine Biology of Annamalai University at Parangipettai estuary near here.

A rare fish species found in the Vellar estuary at Parangipettai in Cuddalore district

These tiny species, measuring just 67 mm in length and weighing 22 mg, have got special features which enable them to live both on land and in water. Called ‘vaetti uluvai’ in Tamil, they are the missing link between fishes and amphibians in the evolutionary ladder, according to T. Balasubramanian, Director of the Centre.

He told The Hindu that during the survey conducted recently in the Vellar estuary at Parangipettai near here under the University Grants Commission-supported project on gobiid fishes the researchers identified a mudskipper variety, Periophthalmus variabilis.

The Director said the species were aptly called mudskippers because they had mudflats as their habitat and had the habit of skipping or hopping around. The fish had got protruding rounded eyes that could move in all directions.

Its pectoral fins resembled more of the forelimbs of frogs, with which it attains mobility and climbs on to vegetations. Mr. Balasubramanian further said that the fish digs burrows in mudflats that have a gentle slope towards the sea and have a depth of up to one-and-half metre.

During high tide, the burrows would get filled with seawater and during low tide the waves would withdraw, allowing to make its appearance, he added.

Principal Investigator V.Ravi, also Assistant Professor in the Centre, said mudskippers played an important role in the food chain. They feed on fish eggs, nematodes, smaller crabs and insects, and, are, in turn, food for birds and otters. Mr. Ravi said mudskippers would lay eggs within the burrows and male fishes would oxygenate the eggs by blowing air. The eggs would not get washed away because they had an adhesive filament that made them stick to the walls of the burrows. This sensitive creature would swirl in the burrows at the very sight of a predator.

The mudskippers have medicinal quality and are being used as a remedy for anaemia and to prevent frequent urination in children.

Mr. Ravi observed that in China, South Korea and Japan the mudskippers were cultured extensively for food and the Centre would evolve a suitable strategy for its proliferation through captive breeding.

A.V. Ragunathan – From THE HINDU

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Karnataka, where the mahseer is safe…

Fishing camps along the Cauvery have helped safeguard the habitat of the mahseer. Also, most of the poachers have been rehabilitated and are employed as guides and guards to patrol the river stretch at the fishing camps, reports Susheela Nair

Hurtling from the high mountains of the Brahmagiri range in Kodagu district, the bountiful Cauvery river flows across Karnataka, snaking through forested hilly tracts and agricultural fields. Some stretches of the omnipresent Cauvery between the Shivanasamudram waterfalls and Mekedatu, shelter the giant mahseer, the legendary sport fish of India. On the banks of this stretch of the river are three fishing camps Doddamakali, six km upstream, and Galibore, 16 km downstream of Bheemeshwari and all run by the state-owned Jungle Lodges and Resorts Ltd (JLR). These camps are all within a few hours drive from Bangalore. Anglers from all over the world make their annual pilgrimage to these exclusively reserved stretches to pit their wits against the mahseer while non-anglers revel in nature’s bounty.

Angling history can be traced back to the pre-independent days when the British used to ‘catch-and-kill’ the mahseer. With the construction of dams in the adjoining areas, the migration of the fish was restricted and even blocked in some places.

This contributed to the decline of the mahseer population. Moreover the villagers, mostly settlers indulged in netting, poisoning and using ordinary detonator with safety fuse thus destroying all aquatic life forms including fish fingerlings.

Explains Arun Srinivasan, President, WASI, “Realising the need to safeguard the habitat of the mahseer fish and the adjoining riverine stretches of forest, Wildlife Association of South India (WASI) set up temporary fishing camps in the mid-seventies. For the past thirty years, we have been involved in the protection of this stretch of the Cauvery river.”

Bheemeshwari

Catch-and-release practice
“In the light of decreasing sizes and number of good specimens, we adopted the ‘catch-and-release’ practice, thus giving a fresh lease of life to the mighty mahseer. We have been protecting mahseer fishing by adopting conservation, stocking and management measures so as to stem the decline of mahseer population,” the WASI president adds. Subsequently JLR took over the river stretch by setting up a camp at Bheemeshwari in 1984.

The mahseer is the pride and joy of the Cauvery and Asia’s premier sporting fish. It is believed that the name has been formed from the Hindi words maha (great) and sir (head). It could equally have been derived from the Persian mahi (fish) and  sher (lion) but either way, the mahseer retains its status as king and the prize catch for all committed anglers.

In local parlance, it is known as bili meen. Catching the mahseer fish is easier said than done. The legendary fighting fish resists all attempts to catch it and there is a virtual tug-of-war between the angler and the fish for about 20-30 minutes. It can grow to over 100 lbs in weight, can easily swim upstream, against rapids, at over 20 knots, a truly spectacular sight amidst splendid scenery.

Every time a fish is caught, a camp attendant helps the angler remove it from the water, tie its mouth with a nylon rope, weigh it and pose for a photograph! And, immediately after, the rope is removed and the fish is let back into the river.

Situated on the banks of the river Cauvery, the Cauvery Fishing Camp (CFC) is an ideal picnic spot for nature enthusiasts, river lovers and a paradise for hardcore anglers. Every year, head guide of a fishing holidays company David Plummer escorts a limited number of anglers to these camps which combine the thrill of hooking one of the world’s finest game fish, the mahseer, with the rugged existence of camp life. The camp activities  revolve around the ubiquitous Cauvery river which flows sinuously through the varied terrain of Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.  Birding, bonfire, coracle rides, camping one the sandy banks of the river, trekking, wildlife safaris, white water rafting and bird watching are all part of the wilderness escapade.

Conservation of the mahseer
According to N D Tiwari, IFS, Managing Director, JLR, “Besides contributing to the tourism coffers, angling tourism supports conservation of the mahseer.

“The setting up of anti-poaching camps along the river has curtailed poaching and helped in protection of the river and the aqua species. The size of the fish has grown over the years from 32 pounds to 106 pounds because of protection. Most of the poachers have been rehabilitated and are employed as gillies (guides) and guards to patrol the river stretch at the fishing camps.” Since they are familiar with every tract of the forests, know every inch of the river, where each eddy and whirlpool lies, where the fish likes to school, they have proved themselves able guides. “We help anglers with our knowledge of the waters as we are experienced fishermen ourselves,” said Bhola, a rehabilitated poacher-turned-river guide at Bheemeshwari.

Lured by the social acceptance, security and steady income and the fact that their future is intimately connected with the well-being of the endangered mahseer and its habitat, they are concerned and involved in the protection.

The Coorg Wildlife Society (CWS), another voluntary organisation engaged in protecting mahseer fishing in the Cauvery (i.e. Valnoor in Coorg district,) with a lease on 28 km of this river has been stocking young mahseer in this stretch since 1993. The CWS protects this stretch of the river, issues fishing licenses, organises sport fishing and maintains fish catch statistics.

According to AJT John Singh, eminent wildlife scientist, “If the grand old giant Tor mussullah still exists, it is only because of the farsighted conservation measures adopted  by JLR and NGOs like WASI and CWS with their unique eco-tourism and catch-and-release programmes. This is an excellent model worth emulating throughout the different ranges of different species of mahseer in the country, which would mutually benefit the fish, the habitat and the local people.”

From Deccan Herald

Milk fish found off Tuticorin coast

Tuticorin: The Threspuram fish landing centre off Tuticorin coast has witnessed a fully grown male milk fish among other marine fish catch.

new catch:A milk fish caught at Threspuram on Thursday. Photo : N.Rajesh

The fish measuring 120 cm in length from head to tail and weighing about 10 kg is an edible fish with high nutritional value. The fish was caught through hook and line by Pon, a fisherman of the region.

J. D. Jameson, former Director of Research and Extension, Fisheries College and Research Institute, Tuticorin, said here on Thursday that “though fish can tolerate extreme saline condition, it normally grows well in low saline water. The fish mainly feeds on fine algae and is found in deep seas.”

Fifteen years ago, milk fish seeds were collected along brackish water regions like Punnakayal and Pullavazhi of Tuticorin for stocking them in ponds but it has come down due to marine pollution. Hence due attention should be paid and initiate appropriate measure to combat pollution especially along the coast.

He was of the view that better aquaculture management and seed production were need of the hour. “The occurrence of male milk fish in Threspuram landing centre along the Gulf of Mannar is an evidence that the milk fish fishery can be enhanced by measures like fishing holidays and ranching of seeds which could render this kind of fish to grow well in the marine environment and attain good size for further propagation, Dr. Jameson added.

From THE HINDU

Fishermen find venture encouraging

Happiness is palpable among them at Rameswaram

RAMANATHAPURAM: The first day’s sally of Rameswaram fishermen, who ventured into the sea for fishing after a gap of 45 days, was successful and encouraging, as most of them netted a good catch.

FORTUNE FAVOURS THEM:Fishermen offloading fish catch at Rameswaram on Tuesday.

Out of around 1500 trawlers that went into the sea on Monday from Rameswaram, Mandapam, Pamban and nearby villages, most of them returned to the shore without any notable problem or disturbance in the sea.

Happiness was palpable among the fishermen, who unloaded their catch from the trawlers for marketing. Reports from a cross section of fishermen indicated that it was good fortune for most of them. Besides prawn, which is the most sought after variety due to the high market value for export, they netted ‘kanavoi,’ crab and fishes, which fetched good rate in the local markets.

It is said that the fishermen netted 150 to 250 kg per boat. There were reports that a few fishermen of Erwadi, Valinokkam and nearby fishing villages got 250 to 300 kg per trawler.

“We have got around 150 kg of prawn. Though it cannot be termed as a good catch, we feel satisfied with it,” said A. Edision of Thangachimadam.

Fishermen claimed that except for a few groups most of them confined to the Indian waters and cast nets.

S. Arulanandam of Pamban said they could get a good catch due to fishing after a long gap (ban period) intended by the government for facilitating a good environment for breeding. The trend should continue at least for a few months so that the fishermen could repay the loans borrowed at higher rates of interest for repairing the boats. The fishermen were paid around Rs.400 per kg of prawn (first quality) by the merchants, who purchased it for export.

Acting on complaints by the Assistant Director of Fisheries that most the fishermen went to the sea without collecting mandatory tokens, Collector T.N. Hariharan said that the issue would be viewed seriously. Action would be taken against those who had sold diesel to fishermen before the end of ban on fishing.

From The Hindu

Fishermen happy over hefty catch

FRESH:A fisherman collecting fish in Tuticorin on Monday.

Tuticorin: The fishermen expressed satisfaction over the outcome of a hefty catch when the forty five day period of fish ban along the coastal water was lifted.

The atmosphere at fishing harbour in Tuticorin was hectic. Coming back to shore after venturing into the sea at night, the fishermen with a glittering smile on their faces, said that a huge catch would fetch rich dividends. The arrival of prawns was higher than expected. Delighted consumers thronged the auction hall at the harbour.

From The HINDU

Aid for marine ornamental fish breeding

CUDDALORE: The Asian Development Bank has sanctioned a sum of Rs. 36.2 lakh for implementing the marine ornamental fish breeding scheme in four coastal villages of Cuddalore district, according to Collector P. Seetharaman.

In a statement released here, Mr. Seetharaman said that villages such as Velingirayanpettai, Periyakuppam, Parangipettai and Thammanampettai had been identified for the purpose.

A memorandum of understanding had been signed with the Annamalai University, Chidambaram, for imparting training.

At least 10 persons, either members of self-help groups or others, in each village would be selected for undergoing the training in marine ornamental fish breeding, Mr. Seetharaman said.

Fish lings would be obtained from the Marine Fisheries Research Centre located near Mandapam in Rameswaram district. People of these villages had come forward to donate either a building or a vacant site measuring 1,200 sq.ft., for conducting the training programme. Fish breeding would fetch a monthly income of Rs 5,000 per head, the Collector said.

From THE HINDU

Tuticorin: Training programme on ornamental fish culture

To generate employment for fisherwomen

Tuticorin: A three-day training programme on ornamental fish culture by the Department of Fisheries Extension, Fisheries College and Research Institute, came to a close here on Friday.

With the objective of generating self-employment to the fisherwomen as an alternative livelihood and for economic development, the programme was organised under the aegis of Integrated Cooperative Development Programme. Presiding over the programme, M. Venkatasamy, Dean (in-charge) explained the developments occurring in the field of ornamental fish culture, which enhances the livelihoods of the fisher folk.

M. Murugan, Regional Joint Director of Cooperatives, highlighted the assistances being provided by the Government through different schemes to promote the economic activities among the self-help group women.

Dr. Venkatasamy also released the training manual of the programme. Totally, twenty-five fisherwomen from the coastal villages of the district attended the programme.

R. Santhakumar, Associate Professor, Department of Fisheries Extension, coordinated the programme. M. Nagoor Meeran, Associate Professor, A. Antony Xavier, Assistant Director of Fisheries (Marine), K. Senthamizh Selvi, Joint Registrar and General Manager, District Integrated Cooperative Development Project, and others were present.

From THE HINDU