Madhya Pradesh trailblazing best practice in mahseer aquaculture

Jan 30, 2018 | Research & Conservation

Following the Mahseer Trust’s first meeting with Madhya Pradesh (MP) Forest Department in Indore during early 2017, Mahseer Trust Director of Research Adrian Pinder, was recently delighted to accept an invitation from MP Forest Department to visit the state’s mahseer hatchery at Barwah. Located on the banks of the River Choral, a tributary of the mighty Narmada, the hatchery represents a flagship project being funded by the State Biodiversity Board of MP.

In response to Mahseer Trust scientific outputs and conferences regarding fish stocking and the potential for non-indigenous mahseer to impact negatively on endemic fauna, MP State biodiversity Board and M.P Forest Department has in principal agreed   to eliminate the risk of genetic contamination by declining imports of non-indigenous mahseer for the purpose of stocking. Instead, effort has been focussed on rearing only from endemic broodstock sourced from the headwaters of tributaries of the River Narmada.

Under the expert guidance of Dr Shriparna Saxena (scientific principal investigator) of Bhopal University, MP Forest Department staff have just succeeded for the first time in breeding the state fish of Madhya Pradesh, Tor tor. This is a significant breakthrough and testament to the dedication and hard work of the team.

Local fishermen employed at the Barwah Hatchery net the main pond to show the locally sources broodstock

Following a ceremonious netting exercise to exhibit the very beautiful brood fish, Adrian was shown the basic but effective hatchery facility which currently supports the first batch of larvae. The manual stripping the eggs and milt from brooders is standard practice in aquaculture, but contrary to the norm Dr Saxena and team have succeeded in breeding without having to administer hormone injections to stimulate the fish into spawning condition.

Left to right: Dr Shriparna Saxena and Adrian Pinder show the TV cameras the state fish of Madhya Pradesh, Narmada mahseer, Tor tor.

Adrian’s visit to the hatchery also stimulated interest from the media and various edits of numerous interviews were broadcast across all state news channels bringing wider awareness of the project.

Examining the first batch of Tor tor larvae; currently growing well on a diet of zooplankton

To our knowledge, this is the first example of a hatchery in India being dedicated to protecting the biological integrity of local rivers with a view to supplementing natural recruitment in the Narmada catchment. Despite having the potential to grow big and have the same fighting reputation of other mahseers, it’s perhaps surprising that the Narmada River has never been reported to feature in the interests of the recreational angling community. This is a topic discussed in depth following the hatchery visit when Adrian met with senior officials from the state Biodiversity Board and Forest Department in Bhopal. This resulted in an agreement for Mahseer Trust to assist MP government in an advisory context to scope the potential for the development of recreational catch-and-release fisheries and their potential contribution to species conservation and rural livelihoods.

Screen shot from one of many airings across state TV channels

The Mahseer Trust look forward to working with MP government in the coming months and wish Dr Shriparna Saxena and team every success with plans to upscale hatchery operation and production over the coming years.

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