Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Friends for Fish

Please imagine a day in the bank of Sharda river in early November...out for fishing Mahsheer... you have your bait out in the still water of a small deep...and you are relaxing gently in the flickering shadows of Buransh leaves while appreciating the sweet smell of some wild flower ...and... gazing at the hermit-like snow-capped Garhwal mountains ...and may be...slipping into a deep slumber... listening to a couple of Chitals warning the jungle folk about the presence of a Himalayan Black bear a mile away...for a moment you might time-machine yourself to the year 1925 to feel the ambiance in Corbett's eyes...developing a deep association with forest and its elements. If you ever read about the fishing days of Corbett in his master piece "My India" you can probably assess what I am really trying to paint...we all may be motivated enough to return back to mother nature and to experience the cleansing effect on our souls at least for a brief second...a very important second.

What I am going to talk about here today is about a possible way to rejuvenate those peaceful and exciting a dream come may think I am crazy...but hear me out...

Many times, Corbett has spent several words mentioning about the fun and excitement while fishing...which all of us fishermen would wholeheartedly agree to. But towards the later part of his life, he had expressed his concerns about the loss of aquatic life in a rate that was going to ruin the heaven of fishermen for ever. This is where little memories of my childhood shadow my eyes. My father taught me and bunch of other toddlers in the village how to swim in our village river. When we became able swimmers (and we could swim across the river about four times in a go) we developed interest in catching the fish swimming under water in bare hands. There were lots of them and some times we used to get lucky. Sometimes we used to form a group under water and we would chase a bunch of fish toward the bank. Some of them used to get caught in the algae near the shore in an effort to hide vane... we knew where the smart fish was hiding...all we had to do was to push the algae up the shore and retrieve the fish with little effort.

Most of the people in my village were fishermen and mostly earned their livelihood by fishing off of the river and selling them. But we still used to get ample bites when we used to go angling with our hand made poles.  When I grew up to be a teenager, I realized that people in my village are not only catching fish to meet their needs, but they also have become greedy. All of them were catching and killing fish as maniacs to afford building houses, buying vehicles and even to buy fancy pairs of shoes. There was no regulation, so no body listened to any body when they were advised against doing so by the more thoughtful ones.

I was out of my village (a slightly unknown village named Motarangapal in Jajipur Town, Orissa in the bank of river Baitarani) for higher education and several years passed before I could  return to my village to see my granny. It was my all time favorite past time to go to the deepest point in the river and cast my bait to reel a big catfish in when I visited my village. I always enjoyed the view, the breeze and the deeply fulfilling peaceful time on the river bank. And I tried doing that that time too...I kept casting my baits, lures, swimmers, flies and so on...every trick that I possibly knew. I could not get a single bite after trying for a full week in a row. I was very was very disappointing too...I started doing little inquiry...and the truth that was revealed to me was dreadful...The whole river has been fished out so bad over the years that the river did not have enough fish to generate eggs to replenish itself with the lost fish for quite a long time to come...some species of fish who were aggressive bait eaters (local name Balia) has been wiped out from the river due to shortage of food...there was no sign of migratory birds...the survey report produced by the state showed that the river was not in a chemical state to make it conducive to the existence of certain species of fish and crustaceans. Certain kind of fish species have been taking a heavy toll due to a cancer like disease which has been caused by the overuse of lead in fishing nets...and those species are no more suited for human be precise the place was no better than hell for both fishermen and fish alike. And the so called fishermen who have been surviving on the river, have been running their fish business relying on several commercial fish suppliers.

Friends, I cannot possibly explain the pain I started feeling in my heart...I felt like I have not been a good friend to this river... and the river is just dying on me waiting and waiting...sick and tired of the piracy and torture of some stupid and selfish people...thinking that some day her friends will come to help her survive. I felt very heavy in my head and returned home that evening. I talked my heart out to granny about the situation long through the night...and I promised something to myself ...

Ever since, I have thought about what I could do about it could I bring the past life back to my dear village river. I finally found the answer when I came to Virginia to attend graduate school. I learned  about the Trout stocking scheme in Virginia run by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries .

Trout is a beautiful fresh water fish native to Virginia and a charm for fishermen.
Rainbow Trout
Since the fish is so widely coveted by both fishermen and non-fishermen equally, the state has made a licensing policy against Trout catch and has enforced it with a heart. And the people in Virginia are great supporters of the policy. With the money that is raised by the licensing and other generous contributions from Trout conservationist organizations and individuals, the department of Game and Inland Fisheries has maintained Trout hatcheries. In those hatcheries,  Rainbow Trouts are bred and raised to a specific physical length to ensure that they have acquired the necessary strength and skills to survive on their own and protect themselves. The hatchery Trouts are then released to designated creeks and natural ponds in order to help maintain the Trout habitat against Trouts caught by anglers in that time period. For water bodies not historically inhabited by trouts, the state also has a program to release Trouts in order to expand the habitat for trouts across Virginia such that the Trout species does not go extinct.
Trout Hatchery in Paint Bank, Virginia
This is indeed wonderful... we can do fact we should have been doing this for a long time...I see that I cannot sleep anymore...I'll have to tell everyone who are friends of my village river...whether the local authorities are willing or not willing to help...we still can make our effort to release fish during certain season and restrict ourselves not to fish during those seasons...we could start a fund raiser and awareness campaign to make this a success...or at least we can have a start...and sooner or later we can make some positive progress towards it.

At least this is where I can start...and may be... in some auspicious future, others will put their heart to join me, if I am lucky enough...

Talk to you later..

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