March 4, Thimphu: A project, one of the first in the entire Himalayan region has been approved for the scientific remote radio telemetry study on the Golden Mahaseer to understand its movements and habitat. The Golden Mahaseer is the most iconic and the toughest sporting freshwater fish in the world.
Bhutan’s rivers are considered to be one of the last remaining aquatic habitats for the Golden Mahaseer population. However, there is a little data available on Mahaseer life history, habitat usage, reproductive biology, migration, and age-and-growth patterns in the wild rivers of Bhutan. Due to developmental activities, the Mahaseer is said to be depleting and could go extinct in the country, if a proper conservation strategy is not implemented. Therefore, the Bhutan Golden Mahaseer Conservation and Development Project aims to carry out its study in the Manas river basin covering Mangde chu and Dangme chu and establish a scientific baseline data of its population and migration patterns before it is too late.
According to Dr. Julie from the Fishery Conservation Foundation (FCF), USA, the project will set up 11 receiving stations at the identified areas and 30 nos. of Mahaseer will be surgically implanted radio transmitters. Such radio telemetry study is the first of its kind in Bhutan. The data will be collected every three months and evaluated to see the progress.
The Mahaseer is one of the least studied fish and is currently listed ‘Threatened’ considering its declining population. It is regarded as an important conservation indicator of the overall health of the river systems. Globally, the Mahaseer fishing is a multibillion dollar industry creating thousands of jobs across many countries.
According to Tshewang Tashi, the Project Director, the conservation of Mahaseer can provide good opportunities for Bhutan in becoming one of the world’s best angling destinations. It is also expected to enhance the tourism sector by attracting high end tourist through its sport fishing.
The project was formally launched by the Hon’ble Lyonpo, Yeshey Dorji in presence of all the stakeholders. It will be implemented by the Department of Livestock in collaboration with the WWF-Bhutan and FCF, USA with a total budget of Nu. 7.54 million. It is a three year long project starting from March 2015 to February 2017.
Besides collecting the useful information on the Mahaseer, the project will lead to the preparation of Bhutan’s first conservation strategy and plan to effectively increase the abundance of Mahaseer in the river systems of Bhutan. It will further enhance the country’s economy by benefiting the local livelihoods through its related trade.
As per the National Centre for Aquaculture (NCA), the Mahaseer is also found in Punatshang-chu, Sarpang-chu, Mou-chu, Bhur-chu, Phibsoo-chu, Taklai-chu and Kanimakara-chu. The centre is also working towards the conservation of the Mahaseer and has developed a local technology to breed the Mahaseer through ex-situ.
-Tshering Doma with photos by NCA and Choidup Zangpo, ICS
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