Alappuzha: A survey of fish at the Vembanad lake in Kerala’s Alappuzha district last week showed that several fish species that believed to have left the tourist hotspot have returned to the backwaters, whose biodiversity is under threat for various reasons.
Fishermen, scientists and environmentalists who came together for a participatory conservation exercise identified 48 fish species in the lake, at least 10 more than those found in the 1990s, said K.G. Padmakumar, a scientist with the fisheries college of Kerala Agriculture University (KAU).
The surveyors spotted some species that were believed to have left the backwaters. About 15 of the fish species found in the lake are edible, including the common pearl spot fish.
The survey also pointed to areas of concern such as lower fish availability in tourist hotspots, excessive fishing, unscientific fishing practices and sand mining, said V.S. Vijayan, chairman of Kerala government’s biodiversity board.
Also of concern is the lack of interest among youngsters in fishing—most fishermen are in the age group of 45-60, he said.
More than 200 people including volunteers sailed through the backwaters to take a count of fish species in the Vembanad lake and water bodies around it, the home of Kerala’s backwater tourism.
They had come together under the banner of Bangalore-based Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), the bio-diversity board of Kerala, Lucknow-headquartered National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources and KAU.
The participants, in three groups, surveyed the habitat as well as its physical and chemical aspects, and also made a record of the resources including plants and weeds, and the dumping of waste, said John Mathew, a student of the School of Environment Studies, Mahatma Gandhi University, who is researching on aquatic plant ecology.
Following the success of this venture, the biodiversity board is considering a similar exercise next year in all the 44 rivers in Kerala, said Vijayan.