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A tiger among fish

Learning more about the Ganga river basin’s golden mahseer fish to better protect it

The golden mahseer’s spectacular colouring is thought to have earned it its name, which roughly translates as ‘mahi’ (fish) and ‘sher’ (tiger), hence it being known as the tiger of the river. The golden mahseer’s lifecycle is intimately connected with a river’s flow: adult fish inhabit foothill rivers and migrate upstream in monsoon conditions to reach suitable spawning grounds; as such, the fish’s survival is dependent on the preservation of habitat connectivity and adequate flows.

The main threats to mahseer in India are: habitat degradation (from land use changes, riverbed mining and pollution from urban and industrial sources); habitat fragmentation due to infrastructure development, which blocks migration and reduces suitable habitat; climate change; overfishing, including indiscriminate fishing of fish fry and fingerlings.

Funded by the HSBC Water Programme, WWF-India has started work to develop an atlas of golden mahseer distribution and threats in Uttarakhand (where most of India’s golden mahseer are found) as part of a wider advocacy strategy to increase protection for the fish and its habitat, and has also taken steps towards designating a new protected area for mahseer in the Kosi River.

Read the case study (2017) PDF describing this work