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3543Pong Dam new haven for black cormorants

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  • chandwani01
    Dec 20, 2011
      Pong Dam new haven for black cormorants
      Winged visitors leave reservoir poorer by over 100 tonnes of fish every year
      Kuldeep Chauhan
      Tribune News Service

      Bilaspur, December 20
      The migratory black cormorants and Indian grebe, the voracious carnivores, have found Maharana Pratap Sagar (Pong Dam), North India's largest Ramser water body, a new haven of prey. They eat up more than 30 per cent of fish in the dam every year.

      These 1.32 lakh "migratory flying invaders" from Central Asia, Tibet, China and Mongolia have been giving sleepless nights to fishermen and fisheries officials over the years. They come zeroing in on in this new-found winter feeding ground from October onwards and fishermen accuse these winged visitors of making them poorer by over a hundred tonnes of fish when they go back by March every year.

      The fisheries officials cite figures to support their claims. The fish catch in Pong Dam has dropped from its peak production in 1988 from 797 tonnes to just 204 tonnes recorded till date this year. Pong Dam needs one crore fingerlings every year to feed birds and local demands of fishermen, but fisheries can release 50 lakh fingerlings due to shortage of fish seed.

      In 1988, there were just 25,000 migratory birds at Pong Dam and now their number has surged to 1.32 lakh of over 100 different species last year and this year it can go up to 1.5 lakh.

      Not only this, a large chunk of the "winged nomads" have made Raiser and Karu islands and Dameta and Katatyar forests around Maharana Pratap Sagar as their permanent home, says Dr BD Sharma, Director, Fisheries. "A black cormorant needs 300 gm of fish everyday. In all, over 30 per cent of fingerlings of 30 mm and above are devoured by the birds every year", he asserts.

      Cormorants and Indian grebe are excellent divers and can take a plunge as deep as 10 ft in the dam water and come up with its prized catch. The birds nesting sites in lake area are full of fish remains, say fisheries officials.

      Shuffling in their support, bird lovers and wildlife officials

      term fisheries officials' claims as exaggerated ones. Only small and large cormorants and Indian grebe are meat eaters, whose number is not more than 10 per cent of the migratory birds, says S Gupta, wildlife in charge of Pong Dam.

      Gupta says that 90 per cent of birds feed on smaller creatures or marshes along the chores, not on fingerlings. By March-end they migrate for breeding about 800 km away in the Trans-Himalayan region in summers, he adds.

      Even if the birds eat fish, they give Rs 40,000 per year to the

      Fisheries Department to add more seeds in the reservoir. The birds eat small cat fish and not fish seed and fish are poached and eaten by the cat fish, whose number has surged in the lake, claim wildlife officials.

      But biologists dismiss their point by saying that "no bird can act

      like human and can discriminate between cat fish or carp, singhara, catla, rohu, mrigal, kalyanu, mahaseer in dam. "Only singhara (catch 96 tonnes) feed on smaller fish and the rest of them feed on aquatic plant life in the dam", says Dr Sharma.

      But a major blow to fish life in this Ramsar site (Pong) came in 1988 when flood in the Beas forced opening up of all its flood gates. "That in turn washed away the seeds and feeding ground and the production dropped by half that time. But now we have replenished the feeding grounds", says Dr Sharma.