Researchers find way to save Kakila fish from extinction

Scientists work to produce Kakila fish artificially at the Jashore substation of Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute
Prothom Alo

Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute is currently on a roll and writing one success story after another in its quest for artificially producing the endangered indigenous species of fish and the latest one has come in regards to Kakila.

The institute, which has won the Ekushey Padak in native fish conservation research, hopes that these achievements will have a huge impact in the conservation of endangered indigenous fish as well as contribute to higher production of native fish in the country.

While talking to news agency UNB, the researchers of BFRI said that at one time indigenous species of fish could be found in abundance in inland waters, but many of these have either disappeared or on the verge of being extinct due to damage to habitats and breeding grounds triggered by climate change, natural disasters and other man-made causes.

But scientists working in the Jashore centre of BFRI have recently made huge progress in inventing artificial breeding techniques for such species of fish. They have achieved this after three years of intensive research.

The chief scientific officer of BFRI Jashore substation Md Rabiul Awal Hossain, senior scientific officer Shariful Islam and scientific officer Shishir Kumar Dey conducted the study.

Consider Kakila. Once found in plenty in inland fresh water bodies including rivers, ponds and haors. It is not only a tongue pleaser, but this fish is also rich in beneficial nutrients for the human body.

This is the first artificial breeding of Kakila fish in Bangladesh and no information has been found about the artificial production of this fish anywhere in the world
Rabiul Awal Hossain, Chief scientific officer, BFRI Jashore substation

Researchers said that per 100 grams of edible kakila fish contains 16.1 per cent protein, 2.23 per cent lipid, 2.14 per cent phosphorus and 0.94 per cent calcium which is much higher than other small fish.

According to the scientists, Kakila, (Xenentodon cancila) is recognised as Freshwater garfish. It belongs to the Belonidae family of fish.

Apart from Bangladesh, the fish is found in Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Malaysia and Thailand. However, there are some differences in colour and size.

The head of the research team Md. Rabiul Awal Hossain said that the body of Kakila is long, slightly compressed and almost cylindrical in shape. They are 25 to 30 cm in length. Also the body of the male fish is more slender and slightly smaller in size than the female fish.

It is a predatory fish. It mainly eats small fish. It breeds in naturally flowing water-bodies especially in rivers and in flooded areas during monsoons.

Mature fish live in places where there are no floating aquatic plants, but their females lay eggs under the leaves and floating roots of aquatic plants.

For this near-extinct fish researchers have some good news. The researchers have discovered artificial breeding techniques for Kakila.

Scientists work to produce Kakila fish artificially at the Jashore substation of Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute
Prothom Alo

Rabiul claimed that this is the first artificial breeding of Kakila fish in Bangladesh and no information has been found about the artificial production of this fish anywhere in the world.

Senior scientific officer Shariful Islam, a member of the research team, explained on how they conducted the research.

First, Kakila brood (parent fishes) was collected from the Padma river in Kushtia adjacent to Rajbari district and brought to Jashore in a special way ensuring oxygen supply and discharged into the freshwater sub-centre pond of Jashore.

Later, carp fry produced in hatcheries and small fish collected from various reservoirs were fed to them and they were being groomed to survive in the confined environment of the pond.

Since May this year, they have been given hormone injections in different doses at the sub-centre hatcheries for artificial breeding following scientific protocol.

On 25 August, the eggs hatched from a spawned fish and the artificial breeding of Kakila finally came to fruition. Then, the lead researcher stepped in and explained the project further.

He said that PG (Pituitary Gland) hormone was used during the time. On 18 August, four pairs of parents were selected from the pond. They were kept in four separate smaller water reservoirs and given controlled hormone doses. After about 48 hours, one of the mother fish laid eggs. The eggs were monitored constantly with a microscope and about 90 to 100 hours, they hatched.

Shishir Kumar Dey, a scientific officer and a member of the research team, said that the average water temperature in the pond was 28.5 degrees Celsius, the amount of dissolved oxygen was 4.5 mg/ litre and the pH was 7.6.

BFRI director general Yahya Mahmud said they have already achieved success in artificial breeding of 30 of the country’s 64 endangered fish. Kakila fish was the 31st fish in the series of successes.

“All the endangered species of fish will be brought under artificial breeding in phases so that every person in the country could have native fish on their food plate,” he said.

Fisheries and livestock minister Rezaul Karim said a radical change has taken place in the fisheries sector with the utmost importance and patronage of the government.

“At one time there was a crisis of native fish due to various reasons. Under the direction of prime minister Sheikh Hasina, the ministry of fisheries and livestock has taken initiative to bring back the endangered indigenous fish,” he added.

The minister also said that modern techniques and methods of fish farming will be expanded further at the field level through development projects of BFRI.

In 2009, the production of domestic small fish in the pond was 67,340 tonnes, which increased to 241,000 tonnes in the 2016-17 fiscal.

This suggests that the production of domestic small fish has increased almost four times in 11 years.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 64 out of 260 species of freshwater fish in Bangladesh are endangered.

According to the Fisheries Institute, the endangered fish currently include Pabda, Gulsha, Guji Ayr, Rajputi, Chital, Meni, Tengra, Bhagna, Khalisha, Kalibaush, Koi, Bata, Foli, Balachata, Shing, Mahashol, Gutum, Magur, Bairali.

It has been possible to restore the existence of about 31 species of fish including carrots, sarpunti and ganiya.