By Vikram Jit Singh
CHANDIGARH: The waters draining into Sukhna lake from Kaimbwala and Saketri have turned into a haven for the fish mafia, which has been using cast nets strung in parallel lines to catch breeding fish in hordes.
These fish are mostly minnows that play a vital role in the ecology of Sukhna lake. Bigger fish such as the carps and fresh-water eels are also caught. Poachers, generally migrant labourers from nearby colonies, are habitual offenders who also catch turtles and other wetland creatures.
Recently, a crackdown by alert guards of the UT forest and wildlife department deputed at the Sukhna Lake Reserve Forest has brought respite. In one of the operations led by wildlife guard Paramjit, 6 nets were seized from the nullah coming in from Saketri side and umpteen small fish in the throes of death were freed and released into the waters. The number of poachers has decreased after the crackdown, but the department needs to keep a constant vigil as the monsoon season is when poachers are out in strength.
Many a times, this correspondent has come across several poachers laying siege to breeding fish with nets strung across the water leaving them no chance to escape. Fishing has been banned in all the waters of UT keeping in mind breeding season.
"In this season, when it rains, the fish tend to swim against the current. This exerts their muscles and they release eggs. The fish prefer to breed in moving water because water separates the eggs that are bound by a kind of gelatine from each other. The minnows that these poachers catch swim near the surface of the water and eat algae. They are thus spotted easily by birds that prey upon them. Minnows also form the diet of large carnivorous fish," professor emeritus of fisheries at Panjab University and Technical Advisor to the UT, MS Johal, told TOI.