PTR launches drive to eradicate African catfish

Aim is to protect local fish wealth

With a view to protecting the local fish wealth, the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) has launched a drive to eradicate African catfish in Periyar Lake, especially in its tributaries.

Over 450 kg of African catfish has been fished out in three days, according to a PTR official. The drive was launched after it was found that the catfish posed a threat to the local fish species in the lake. Periyar Lake hosts the largest number of endemic fish species, including Periyar trout, in the district.

The lake is home to 47 fish species and seven of them are endemic. According to an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classification in 2016, seven of the 36 species in the lake are critically endangered, six engendered, and eight vulnerable.

The major factors that led to the depletion of the local fish in the lake are the proliferation of the catfish, which feeds on local fish, and the introduction of tilapia, a hybrid variety that has the tendency to monopolise the area where it is introduced.

The eco-development committees (EDCs) having fishing rights in the lake have been entrusted with the task of catching the catfish. A group of Mannans and Paliyans are now engaged in catching it and the drive will continue till International Day of Forest on March 21.

It is believed that African catfish reached the lake from nearby fish farms when they were flooded and it proliferated in the congenial conditions. Though banned by the Union government, African catfish is grown in a number of farms in the district.

When the farms are flooded during the monsoon, catfish spreads to nearby paddy fields, streams, and lakes. It has high survival rate too. Almost all reservoirs in the State are facing the threat of African catfish.

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