Srinagar: The discovery of a carnivorous Alligator Gar fish in Kashmir’s famous Dal Lake has set the alarm bells ringing among scientists and authorities as its presence poses a great threat to the native fish species.
The ray-finned euryhaline fish having a mouth like that of an alligator was caught during a deweeding operation in the famous lake.
“This is an Alligator Gar fish which is normally found in North America and some parts of India like Bhopal upper lake and Kerala backwaters. Being a predator fish and a carnivore, it poses a threat to native species of Dal Lake,” Dr Shafeeqa Peer, a scientist at the Lake Conservation and Management Authority (LCMA) said.
Peer said it was a matter of concern as to how this fish has invaded the water system of Kashmir.
“What will be the fate of our native fishes? In certain places like Bhopal, it has been banned as it thrives on other small fishes. It poses a threat to other species and we have not yet come across this type of species here,” she added.
Peer said the LCMA has now collaborated with the Department of Fisheries and Fisheries division of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) to look for any other Alligator Gar fish in the lake.
“We will launch a massive hunt to ascertain whether it is just one fish, is it accidental or somebody has played mischief? There are a lot of questions, especially from the ecology and biodiversity point of view,” Peer said.
Attaullah Khan, senior project officer at the fisheries department, said as of now, two Alligator Gar fishes have been caught.
“These fishes are native to America but Aquarium keepers somehow get these fishes for their Aquarium and when they overgrow they take these fishes and put them in nearest water bodies,” Khan said.
The officer said there was nothing to panic about as every step will be taken to safeguard the water bodies.
“We are taking custody of the fishes for a study in collaboration with the Fisheries department of SKUAST and accordingly we will take necessary measures,” Khan said.
He said the Biological Diversity Act 2002 prohibits the presence of any kind of invasive fish species that can be hazardous to natural fish fauna.
“This is a carnivorous fish, this is an apex predator, very predatory in nature. Whatever comes in its way, it can kill that (fishes). Whenever any species of any fish is introduced which have predatory nature, it is detrimental for the local fish fauna of that area, same is with our fish fauna of Kashmir,” he added.
Khan said there can be some more such fish.
“As of now, we cannot say they have been adopted in natural water bodies of Kashmir because we have not come across such fish earlier,” he said.