Vembanad Lake is under extreme duress.

Be it the anthropogenic activities or the increased instances of pollution, the lake and its ecosystem are undergoing heavy pressure. The mounting pressure of various forms is also certainly taking its toll.

The reduced extent of the lake, the declining water quality, the loss of biodiversity and the reported vanishing of a large number of fish species of the lake are some of the most known aspects regarding the health of the lake system.

It is said that the lake once had around 160 fish species in it. It is also said that the species number has now dwindled to just 50.

But there has not been any comprehensive status check on these aspects.

That is where the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) and the Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS) of the Kerala Agricultural University are working on.

These two agencies, in association with the National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources, Kochi Regional Centre and the Kerala State Biodiversity Board, are organising “Vembanad Fish Count-2008”, a participatory fish census to check a few parameters regarding the lake and the life thriving in and around it.

Nearly 150 volunteers including stakeholders like fisher folks, fisheries societies, local panchayats, village clubs, self-help groups, scientists, researchers and students will collect water and fish samples from 10 different points as part of the study.

A variety of nets will be used by the volunteers to catch fish during the survey. Fish samples will also be collected from the fish landing centres, said K.G Padma Kumar, professor and head (fisheries) of the RARS.

This may be probably the first such attempt in South Asia, said Latha Bhaskar of the ATREE.

Water quality parameters, presence of fish species, planktons, ecology of the lake and also the activities that are taking place in the lake will be recorded, Dr. Latha said.

The programme will be implemented on a participatory mode and is expected to raise awareness about the depleting fisheries resources.

K.S. Sudhi