Nelson's Eye Has Pushed Mahseer Gasp for Survival' || LIVE IMAGE

It is a Sad Story that of what Nature had Bestowed upon the State , the Department of Fisheries has disposed off it with impunity without redemption. Jammu and Kashmir has been lucky historically and traditionally to have a stronghold of Golden awesome Mahseer fish here. Which is the largest freshwater fish on earth found in many of the Rivers in the Himalayas .Native to mountainous and sub-mountainous regions available at altitudes of up to 2,000 metres above sea level and is omnivorous. Mahseer is ironically as endangered as the big cats of the jungle. Scientifically “Tor Putitora” is the name of Golden Mahseer .

The Mahseer species comes in a spectrum of colours from deep burnt copper, through gold, silver, dark black, and inhabits different rivers throughout the length and breadth of India, Pakistan, Burma, Bangladesh Srilanka, and even Thailand. In the subcontinent is sought after to delicacies while Anglers regard golden Mahseer as one of the finest sport-fish a source of recreation to innumerable sportsmen both Indian & Foreigner. 

To the local fishermen Mahseer has been of considerable importance because of their large size, hardy texture, high commercial value and longer shelf life. Thomas, 1897 in his famous book " The Rod in India" stated that pound for pound Mahseer is far superior to ’lordly salmon’ in sporting qualities. 

Jim Corbett Hunter-naturalist, in his book Man-Eaters of Kumaon, refers to the Mahseer as “the fish of my dreams”, and says that “angling for Mahseer might well be described as a sport fit for a king among the 20 mega fish in the world that is hunted for sport and food. The first species from this group were scientifically described by Francis Buchanan-Hamilton in 1822, and first mentioned as an Orient Sporting Magazine in 1833 soon becoming a favourite quarry of British anglers living in India. Some of the preliminary mentions of large Mahseer caught on rod and line were back in 1870, by Mr. Sanderson, author of Thirteen Years Amongst the Wild Beasts of India, with the capture of a Mahseer, which was said to be over 130 lbs. 

The two largest Mahseer, the records of which still stand, are the 119 lbs fish caught by Col. J.S. Rivett-Carnac on 29th Dec 1919, and a 120 lbs fish caught by J. Wet. Van Ingen on the 22nd March 1946, from the Upper Kabbini. The largest specimen heard of was a 140 lbs fish landed by an angler in 1939 from the river Beas - Such large fish were reported in the past even from the Himalayan Rivers. Mr. A St J MacDonald author of Circumventing the Mahseer: & Other Sporting Fish in India and Burma, himself had a number of fish over the 50 lbs range including a 75 lbs fish caught from the Irrawadi river in Burma. 

It prefers to live in lakes, dams or manmade impoundments but migrates upwards to the tributaries to locate the shallow, gravel stream beds where it breeds each year .Deserved to have been treated with respect an awesome dream fish with utmost care to preserve and protect as one of proud aqua treasure of the state. On the other hand Indifferent attitude on the part of the Government as observed with concern since 1953 on wards for decades required intervention to save it has been found missing.

 Mahseer has been deliberately pushed on the edge causing of slowly but steadily wiping it out of waters of the state .Its revival has never been a priority with the government as records . Moreover the Department is solely responsible to wipe out local fish species 42 species of Kashmir valley, 6 native Trout in Krishan Ganga/Neelam River and about 125 Species of jammu rivers by introducing without trails exotic carnivorous fish. 

The matter is too sensitive to have been left at the mercy of the Minister /Advisor mostly has no background to comprehend the gravity to save it on scientific manner with concern. What is unpardonable that the Department nowhere as per records resisted introducing the exotic Fish, overlooking basic scientific caution? This writer is at its wits despite Mahseer fishing is anglers’ delight world over a challenge for fishing enthusiasts due to the robust and swift fight the catch puts up and common mans diet ignore Mahseer and prompt at a large scale rearing of the Trout makes no sense . 

What made and where wisdom lied to ignore its potential from tourism angle, a Dollar making source and go for Trout Anglers call it a weak heart sports nicknamed lady venture. Besides it Trout is beyond the reach of a common man. It reminds of the French Revolution, don’t have bread to it, eat Cakes .

Name derived from two Persian words ‘mahi’ meaning fish and ‘seer’ (pronounced sher) meaning tiger, Punjaeb gaad in Kashmiri . Mahseer is with its large head, distinct fold of flesh below the lower lip, bright scales and various-coloured fins, makes it an attractive fish. Scientifically known as “Tor Putitora”. Also known as Greyhound or the thick-lipped Mahseer even called Tiger Fish.The Mahseer fish as an emblem of the highest honour in royalty is allegedly from Persian in origin and was adopted by the courts of Oudh and the Paigah nobles of then Hydrabadh.

                                                                 Mahseer was an important symbol in the heraldry of certain Muslim-ruled former princely Sates in the subcontinent such as Baoni,Bhopal,Kuwai, and Rampur. Dost Mohammadh Khan’ son Yar Mohammadh received from Nizam-ul-Malik the insignia of the Maha Muratib (the dignity of the Fish). The insignia became part of the Bhopal State's coat of arms. 

State being later passed down to other states of the area. It also represents the National Fish of Pakistan (unofficial) Mahseer because of their large size has been known to reach 9 ft in length and 54 kg in weight, although specimens of this size are rarely seen nowadays, high commercial value and longer shelf life is considered a delicacy for connoisseurs and foodies.

 It is also a fierce fighter—anglers who have wrestled with it talk about broken rods and snapped lines. Once in mid fifties on the left bank of Chenab at Baradari, Reasi, a fisherman was forced to throw net cord to save his life as the Mahseer trapped in the net was so big dragged the fisherman towards the river instead the fisherman could bring it out of water. Various factors have been attributed to the decline in the number of the Mahseer in the state.

 Destruction in breeding grounds and destructive fishing devices obstruction of free movement of fish due to raising of Dams Barrages alter natural change in slope, river-bed profile, submersion of gravel zones or riffle section as well as destruction of riparian vegetation and changes in tropic regimes.

                                                                   Downstream, the hydrological conditions get severely altered through reduction of water discharge flow and can extend over many kilometres downstream of the obstruction so that fish passages have adversely affected the population of this species.

Department with public cooperation should have taken measures to counter these negative effects to ensure conducive atmosphere such as river bed sand and pebbles preserved developed are home to the eggs till these are hatched and then the tiny fish lings make their way to the freshwater streams and river for mature fish swim upstream for spawning and spawn in shallow warm waters. 

Keep watch during the spawning period, and catch young fish . Further Mahseer population is also affected by morphological modifications resulting from completion of river valley projects results in permanent and irrevocable eradication of fish stock ranging from depletion to complete extermination.

 Denial of breeding migration affected by morphological modifications. Records reveal that the Department of Fisheries has established plus 63 Fish Farms and rearing units, 42 are for Trout which is a sport fish other are Exotic Fish. Except one small farm on stream Anji near mighty Chenab at Sula, Reasi for Mahseer as said one Sparrow does not make it a summer. The seed produced at Anji is just a peanut in comparison to the demand. It could be a source for export in case good sense prevails upon the authorities.

 The Department of Fisheries In its own admission shared that Mahseer due to construction of dams and barrages across the rivers, this kind of sport fisheries received a major setback. The proposals for development of Mahseer in areas of Tawi river (Jammu), Ujh stream, Ravi river (Kathua), Tawi river (Udhampur), Poonch river ,Rajouri Wali Tawi (Rajouri), Salal reservoir, Nallah Rud, Ans, Chenab, Pouni Nallah (Reasi) did not mature for lack of interest. A Mahseer fish farm is undertaken at Billawar in district Kathua for the replenishment of the Mahseer fish found not true anywhere on ground .

 On the other hand the neighbouring State of Himachal Pradesh , categorised it an endangered species by the National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources as early as 1992. And has gone all out to introduce necessary measures to contain and reverse the decline. Across the lines in view of its declining numbers, the Himalayan Wildlife Foundation in collaboration with the Fisheries Development Board, WWF (Pakistan) and the Ministry of Environment`s Pakistan Wetlands Programme (PWP) have approached the AJK/POK Wildlife and Fisheries department to initiate immediate measures to conserve the Mahseer.
 Government there has initiated to declare the entire length of the river Poonch and the Mangla pocket where the river drains in to the Mangla Lake as a protected area /national park to save Mahseer and other fish species.

 On death of Maharaja Gulab Singh the killing of fish was strictly prohibited for six years; Lawrence further states that during his tenure as Settlement Commissioner of Kashmir no man could catch fish between Amirakadal and Zainakadal as it was claimed that Maharaja Ranbir Singh had reborn as fish in the Jhelum waters that passed by the palace. There is nothing to write home about from here. In case the Department is incompetent to promote Mahseer, detail them to learn from locals, it is results not degrees that matters.

 Bushan Parimoo
(The writer is a Jammu based environmentalist and a regular contributor to this Website .)
(Feedback at:

Kashmiri Pandits & IDP Status Part-1

Next Post »