ALAPPUZHA: In a heartening development for nature lovers and fans of the picturesque Vembanad lake, the second Vembanad Fish Count held here on Wednesday has identified 62 species of fish and 14 species of crustaceans and molluscs including shrimp. This is in contrast with 50 and 11 each species of both categories that were identified in last year’s count.
According to officials of the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), who masterminded and led the fish count, the opening of the Thanneermukkom barrage at the right time and availability of saline water could have helped the increase in the population of the aquatic species, including sea fish, in the lake, which has been facing the threat of pollution and encroachment for long.
The highlight of the fish count was, however, the discovery of a totally unexpected inhabitant near the Punnamada region of the lake. A Sucker Catfish, an exotic species that is usually seen by the common man only in aquariums, startled the researchers, 170 of whom had fanned out across the lake in 11 groups.
ATREE officials said further investigations would be conducted to find how the 32-cm-long unusual visitor had reached the lake and whether there were more of the same genre in the region.
Another interesting revelation from the event was the improved water quality in the lake. This could be because of the recent rain and the increased water flow that has been enabled with the opening of the Thanneermukkom barrage, ATREE officials said.
District Collector P. Venugopal, who inaugurated the valedictory function of the fish count, lauded the activities and presence of a focused group like ATREE and its associates in the region. Kumarakom Agricultural Research Station associate director K.G. Padmakumar; ATREE principal investigator Priyadarshan Dharmarajan; coordinator Latha Bhaskar and representatives of the Vembanad Nature Club; the College of Fisheries, Panangad; the School of Environmental Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University; and St. Albert’s College, Ernakulam were also present.
Research students and schoolchildren, scientists, environmental activists, fishermen, lake protection councils and others participated.