Carnivore Alligator Garfish found in Dal Lake, local fish species under threat

In the renowned lake, a ray-finned euryhaline fish with an alligator-like mouth was discovered while the lake was being deseeded

By Anoushka Caroline Williams  Published on  15 May 2023 5:30 AM GMT
Alligator Garfish

Hyderabad: Scientists and officials are alarmed by the discovery of a carnivorous Alligator Garfish in Kashmir’s famed Dal Lake because its existence poses a serious danger to the local fish species.

In the renowned lake, a ray-finned euryhaline fish with an alligator-like mouth was discovered while the lake was being deseeded.

This fish, an alligator gar, is often found in North America and select regions of India, including the upper lake near Bhopal and the backwaters of Kerala. Being a carnivore and a predator, it threatens Dal Lake’s natural species, according to Dr. Shafeeqa Peer, a scientist with the Lake Conservation and Management Authority (LCMA).

Dr. Peer expressed worry about how this fish got into Kashmir’s water supply system.

“What will happen to our native fish species? It has been outlawed in several regions because it thrives on other little fish, such as Bhopal. We have not yet encountered this kind of creature here, and it threatens other species,” she continued.

Dr. Peer stated that in order to search for any additional alligator garfish in the lake, the LCMA has now partnered with the Department of Fisheries and the fisheries division of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST).

“We’ll start a major search to see if it’s only one fish if it happened accidentally, or if someone misbehaved. There are many unanswered questions, particularly in terms of ecology and biodiversity,” Dr. Peer noted.

At this time, two alligator garfish have been caught, according to Attaullah Khan, senior project officer of the fisheries department.

These fish are native to America, but Mr. Khan explained that aquarium keepers acquired them for their tanks and then relocated them to nearby water bodies when they outgrew them.

“Nothing to worry about,” said the officer, “as every precaution would be made to protect the water bodies.”

He added, “We are taking custody of the fish for a study in collaboration with the fisheries department of SKUAST, and accordingly, we will take necessary measures.”

He said that any invasive fish species that pose a threat to the local fish fauna is prohibited by the Biological Diversity Act of 2002.

This fish is a carnivore, an apex predator, and has a strong predatory disposition. It can kill any obstacles that stand in its way, even fish. The native fish fauna of any place suffers whenever a predatory fish species is introduced; the same is true for the fish fauna in Kashmir, he said.

Mr. Khan suggested that more of these fish could exist.

As of right now, he continued, “We cannot declare they have been accepted in Kashmir’s natural water bodies since we have never encountered such fish before.”

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