Discovery Of Rare Alligator Gar Fish In Dal Lake Sparks Alarm

Srinagar- The discovery of rare Alligator Gar Fish in Dal Lake has not only taken the locals in Kashmir by surprise and triggered a debate on social media platforms but has also worried fisheries experts, with many expressing concern that the aquatic life in Valley’s water bodies might face challenging times in future.

The fish discovered on Thursday has been identified as one of the species of gars found in the waters of Kashmir for the first time while many experts identified it as the alligator gar fish.

The fish was found by Jammu and Kashmir Lake Conservation and Management Authority (LCMA) during the de-weeding process of Dal Lake and resembles a crocodile-like head and razor-sharp teeth and is native to North America.

However, the experts said that the fish breed is a threat to local fish and might completely disturb their ecosystem as it is the carnivorous-a predator that prefers to eat other fish, frogs etc

“The recovery of this fish from Dal Lake is surprising and could be an accidental or careless introduction which may disturb the ecology and available fishery in the Lake because of its feeding habits and the same needs a detailed investigation by researchers,” said Masood-ul-Hassan Balkhi, former Dean, Faculty of Fisheries, at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir.

He argued that the recovery of this fish as well as other exotics (grass carp) in past from Dal Lake needs to be enquired by relevant agencies and scientists to curb this “menace” of unknown/ambiguous introductions in Kashmir waters in an unscientific manner.

Balkhi said the recovery of the gar fish could be a “worrying sign” for Kashmir waters.

“Such introductions warrant scientific studies keeping in mind the fragile Aquatic ecosystems in Kashmir,’ he added.

There are many species of gars including alligator gar, cuban, Florida  long nose, short nose  etc. The researchers have found the garfish across South and Southeast Asia from India and Sri Lanka to the Malaysian Peninsula.

The feeding habits, according to researchers of the gar is young fish feed on larval fishes and insects. “Adults will eat whatever they can catch, consuming primarily fish, but occasionally taking birds, mammals and other animals,” said another scientist, Dr. Irfan Khan HoD Fish Genetics & Biotechnology SKUAST.

Dr. Khan also said that this fish can eat other fish in water but ruled-out any concern.

“Just one specimen has been caught. We get such reports from other states of the country as well but it is better for the authorities who look after the lake and educate the ethics of the lake,” Khan said, adding “..but if the male and female species are present in lake and they start breeding then scientist can go for impact and analysis on their impact on other species,”

Earlier, Dr. Farooz Ahmad Bhat, Dean at the Faculty of Fisheries, SKUAST-K, confirmed that the fish seen in Dal Lake is an alligator gar fish, sighted for the first time in Kashmir.

“This fish is not harmful. However, we don’t have any research on it as this is the first time it has been seen here in Dal Lake,” Dr. Farooz told the media.

Meanwhile, the department of fisheries, Kashmir has written to LCMA for handing over of the fish to them so that a detailed research can be done.

An official from the fisheries department told Kashmir Observer that the fish is dead but has been preserved by the LCMA and they have written to the VC, LCMA for handing it over to their department.

“We will hand over the fish to the fisheries department of SKUAST where they will carry out a detailed research. Our first priority will be how the fish came to Kashmir,” said Rafiq Ahmad Sofi, Chief Project officer, Gagribal, Srinagar.

Sofi said the department has taken this issue very seriously and has started the investigation and will ascertain whether it is an alligator gar or other species.

“This is a banned fish. Our prima facie investigation tells us that somebody has apparently found this in their aquarium and then released it in Dal, “Sofi added.

According to researchers, the alligator gar is one of the top predators in its natural freshwater environment. It is an ambush predator that lies in wait for prey and then attacks with its large jaws. The gar’s good vision and ability to sense chemicals seem to be the main means by which they detect prey in the water.

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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