MUZAFFARABAD: Officials of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) wildlife and fisheries department on Thursday torched dozens of nets and other equipment used in the unlawful catching of a globally threatened species of fish in River Poonch.
The nets were confiscated by the wildlife guards as well as the volunteers and officials of a non-governmental organisation over the last few weeks in the district Kotli, according to an official handout.
The torching of nets was held along the bank of River Poonch in the city of Kotli “to create awareness on the one hand and send a strong message of caution to the public on the other against the unlawful activity.”
AJK minister for forests, wildlife and fisheries Sardar Mir Akbar Khan and officials of the Himalayan Wildlife Foundation were also present on the occasion.
In December 2010, the AJK government declared the 62-kilometre length of River Poonch – from Degwar Madarpur, where it enters the AJK territory from held Kashmir to Dadyal, where it drains into Mangla dam – as well as its tributaries and their beds as ‘River Poonch Mahasheer National Park.’
Conservationists say the Golden Mahasheer, scientifically known as “Tor Putitora” is the largest freshwater fish on the earth found in many of the rivers originating from Himalayas.
The Mahasheer fish inhabits the southern watersheds of the Himalayas and prefers to live in lakes, dams or manmade impoundments but migrates upwards to the tributaries to locate the shallow, gravel stream beds where it breeds each year.
However, according to officials, unsustainable commercial overfishing, uncontrolled subsistence angling using poisons, electrical devices and explosives, uncontrolled sports angling in the breeding season and destruction of the spawning habitat by extraction of gravel and sand had been seriously threatening the population of Mahasheer in Poonch River system, due to which the river was given the status of an “aquatic protected area.”
Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2017