At least 15,000 of the fish will be released into the Mangdechhu as dams will block their migratory route

Conservation: Around 7,000 Golden Mahseer fingerlings will be released into the Mangdechhu in September by the National Centre for Aquaculture Research in Gelephu.

The release is part of the on-going “conservation of Golden Mahseer and other native fishes” project initiated in 2013, which mandates the centre to release at least 15,000 Golden Mahseer fingerlings into the Mangdechhu.

So far, almost 3,000 Golden Mahseer fingerlings have been released into the river. In March, the centre released 2,841 Golden Mahseer into the Mangdechhu.

More fish will be released after the October-December breeding season.

Although not part of the project, the aquaculture centre has also released 4,780 Mahseer fingerlings into the Rongrichhu in Sarpang.

A second aspect of the project includes strengthening the breeding family of the Golden Mahseer, which has already been fulfilled. A two-storey structure has been constructed near the centre where the fish are bred in an aquarium.

There are 30 Golden Mahseers being kept as breeders for the Mangadechhu and 660 Golden Mahseers breeders for the Sarpangchhu. Owing to the different ecology, different rivers have their own breeders.

Livestock production officer with the centre, Drukpola said that another aspect of the project is to enhance capacity of people to protect the endangered fish in the near future. For that at least 212 farmers living along the Mangadechhu have been briefed about the importance of the Golden Mahseer, its importance in terms of culture and heritage, and its distribution.

People have also been told that should they catch a Golden Mahseer while fishing, the centre should be informed and people will be accordingly compensated. People have already caught Golden Mahseers and reported to the centre, Drukpola said. “This is a sign that people have understood the importance of conserving the Golden Mahseer,” he said.

While the country could breed and release more Golden Mahseer into the Sarpangchhu, more focus is being given to conserving the fish in the Mangdechhu.

Drukpola explained that currently the Mangdechhu requires immediate attention considering the rapid progress of hydropower construction which will lead to habitat destruction and block the migratory route once the dams are constructed.

“It’s a migratory fish coming to Bhutanese rivers to breed,” he said. “Once the dams are built the route will be blocked, so we’re breeding manually and releasing into the river.”

The Golden Mahseer, called serngye locally, is depicted in one of the eight lucky signs.

However, lack of scientific equipment and local specialists in Mahseer breeding was the biggest challenge officials of centre faced while carrying out the project. “We, however, were able to manage to make the project a success,” Drukpola said.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Gelephu