Big fish catch: Officials in troubled waters after arrest of Uttarakhand villagers | dehradun | Hindustan Times
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Big fish catch: Officials in troubled waters after arrest of Uttarakhand villagers

The forest department finds itself in a tight spot after five villagers of Almora district, some 300 km from here, were booked for catching a large fish from the Ramganga near the Corbett national park

dehradun Updated: Jul 31, 2017 20:29 IST
Villagers carry the Devil Catfish.
Villagers carry the Devil Catfish. (HT File)

The forest department finds itself in a tight spot after five villagers of Almora district, some 300 km from here, were booked for catching a large fish from the Ramganga near the Corbett national park.

Officials had swung into action after photos and videos of villagers surfaced on the social media on July 25 in which they were seen carrying the fish, identified as Devil Catfish, tethered to a bamboo pole with plastic rope. A top wildlife official requesting anonymity said the arrests took place after senior government officials intervened on getting the news of illegal fishing in the Ramganga.

It has now come to light that the forest department lodged a complaint against the villagers for killing a ‘Giant Grouper’, which is protected under the Wildlife Protection Act. On Monday, the Almora district judge gave bail to the five villagers and were asked to furnish a bond of Rs 10,000 each before their release.

The episode has snowballed into a controversy after some activists questioned the act of forest department. “The Devil Catfish is found in Ramganga. If department calls it endangered fish then it should back up its claim or else action should be initiated against the officials,” activist Ratan Aswal said. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has put this “near-threatened” species on its red list, but it doesn’t find place in any schedule of the Wild Life (Protection) Act.

Senior CPI(ML) member Indresh Maikhuri has written a letter to the chief minister questioning why villagers were booked in the episode.

Almora divisional forest officer SR Prajapati accepted that Devil Catfish (Bagarius bagarius) is not listed under any schedule of the Wildlife Protection Act. But he still justified his move of booking villagers for killing a “Giant Grouper’ which features in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act. “Though the Devil Catfish is not endangered (as per the act) but it belongs to the family of Giant Grouper and, therefore, villagers were arrested,” he told Hindustan Times.

State wildlife board member Anup Sah asserted he has been urging the government to come up with a plan to regulate fishing in the rivers of Uttarakhand. “It (angling) should be regularised to end any confusion. There is no check on fishing in the state rivers. The locals need to be educated about side effects of unchecked angling,” he said.