Forest dept. embarks on project to conserve, augment fish wealth of Periyar Tiger Reserve

‘Vriksha Samridhi, Matsya Samridhi’ is aimed at planting six varieties of trees along the lakeside

July 07, 2023 07:09 pm | Updated 07:09 pm IST - IDUKKI

A tribal woman fishing by the Periyar lake inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve at Thekkady in Idukki.

A tribal woman fishing by the Periyar lake inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve at Thekkady in Idukki. | Photo Credit: JOMON PAMPAVALLEY

With a view to augmenting the local fish wealth, the Forest department is launching a project to plant chosen varieties of trees by the lakeside at the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR).

PTR assistant field director P.J. Shuhaib told The Hindu that through the project Vriksha Samridhi, Matsya Samridhi, the Forest department will plant six varieties of trees, including njaval (Syzygium cumini) and pattathali (Actinodaphne malabarica), along the lakeside. Fish species, especially the Mahaseer (Kuyil) fish, in the lake feed on fallen fruits of such trees and hence, planting these would ensure proper food security for the fish in the lake. “This will help increase the local fish production in the lake,” said Mr. Shuhaib.

“The department has identified seven tributaries, such as the Periyar river, Mullathode and Maruthalithode, that flow to the lake as part of the project. The trees are to be planted above the maximum water level (MWL) of the lake,” he said.

Mr. Shuhaib said the department staff will soon identify the exact spots to plant the saplings. “In order to protect the local fish wealth, a drive to eradicate African catfish in Periyar Lake, especially along its tributaries, is already on. Over 700 kg of African catfish has already been fished out. The drive was launched based on a finding that African catfish poses a threat to the local fish species,” he added.

C.P. Shaji, fish taxonomist, said the Mahseer is an omnivore that feed on crabs, small fishes and but also occasionally takes the fruits and seeds shed by riparian plants or trees. “It’s tribal knowledge that fish here consumes fruits of such trees. During various seasons, tribespeople use different types of fruits as bait to catch fish from the lake,” he pointed out.

“Periyar Lake and Parambikulam are considered a hub of the Mahseer fish. Its teeth are strong enough to break open any fruit,” said Dr. Shaji.

“Periyar Lake is home to about 47 fish species and seven of them are endemic. The African catfish, tilapia and goldfish were introduced from the outside and these pose a threat to local fish species,” he added.

According to officials, only the tribal communities possess the right to fish in the lake. Fishing is the livelihood source for several tribal communities inside the PTR.

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