Increased Illegal Fishing Driving Away Siberian Pelicans From Hebbal Lake, December 2008 – Are Karnataka Forest Officials Sleeping?

On Thursday, 25/12/08, Praveen J wrote:

From: Praveen J
Subject: [keralabirder] Fwd: Wetland birds vanishing -Kerala
To: keralabirder@yahoogroups.com
Date: Thursday, 25 December, 2008, 11:01 AM

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: jayadevan ek
Date: Sun, 21 Dec 2008 13:46:38 +0530
Subject: Wetland birds vanishing -Kerala
To: Praveen J

Story: http://www.hindu.com/2008/12/21/stories/2008122153860700.html
Title: Wetland birds vanishing * K. S. Sudhi

KOCHI: Wetland birds may vanish from Kerala in the near future considering
their declining population trend. There has been an alarming drop in the
population as revealed during the recent water bird census.

The number of wetland birds in the State has dropped to 94,516 in 2007 from
1, 41,588 of 2004, according to the Asian Water Bird Census data for Kerala.

The situation has further worsened in 2008 in kole wetlands where the bird
population has come down to 30,618 against one lakh in 2004, said P.O.
Nameer, Kerala coordinator of Asian Water Bird Census.

The wetland bird census was held in kole wetlands, Vembanad Lake, Purathur,
Kattampally, Ashtamudi Lake and Kadalundi from 2004. These wetlands account
for the 95 per cent of the total water birds counted from Kerala.

All the wetlands except Purathur and Ashtamudi showed rapid decline in the
bird population.

In Purathur, the bird population increased to 29,837 from 11,272 of 2004. A
marginal increase was also observed at Vembanad where the population was
recorded as 26,801 against 24,744 of 2004, the survey revealed.

An alarming situation prevailed in Kattampally where the bird population
plummeted to 8,440 in 2007 against the 20,087 of 2004.

Of the 31 bird species of Kerala that are considered threatened as per the
International Union for Conservation of Nature standards, eight are
wetland-dependent ones.

These include Spot-billed Pelican, Oriental Darter, Black-headed Ibis and
Black-tailed Godwit, said Dr. Nameer. Dr. B. Sreekumar, coordinator of the
survey in Vembanad Lake, observed that there had been significant reduction
in the number of migratory birds that reach the region. Sandpipers,
Greenshanks and Stints could be hardly spotted during the surveys, he said.

It was also observed that the Cormorant population was on the increase.

Besides the habitat loss, there should be other factors that resulted in the
fall in number of migratory birds reaching the area, said Dr. Sreekumar who
also heads the Kottayam Nature Society.

2009 census in January

The 2009 Asian Water fowl census will be held during the first three weeks
of January.

The Census, to be held under the joint auspices of the Wetland
International, Kerala State Biodiversity Board and the Kerala Forest
Department, would commence at the kole wetland on January 4.

Purathur will be surveyed on January 11 and Vembanad on 18. Bird counting
would also be held at 25 other wetlands across the State.

The survey aims to “obtain, on an annual basis, information on waterbird
populations for most species, at wetlands in the region during the
non-breeding period as a basis for long term evaluation of sites and
monitoring of populations” , according to Wetland International.

During the survey, the status and condition of wetlands would be monitored.
It also attempts to create “greater interest in water birds and wetlands
amongst people, and thereby promote the conservation of wetlands and
waterbirds in the region.”

In response,

Rightly said Praveen. Even Bangalore is facing the same problems.

Earlier Lalbagh lake used to be a home for some of the rarest migrants in the world. But due to increase in anthropogenic activities in the lake, making the lake utterly polluted (uncontrolled pollution due to tourism), and in addition to these, illegal fishing have made the lake unsuitable as a winter home and also an unsuitable breeding place for these birds.

More recently, in the month of November 2008 people was witness to a magnificent sight of cormorants, Siberian cranes and pelicans flocking the Hebbal lake. For information, fishing, boating and anthropogenic activities were banned this year in the lake by the Karnataka Forest Department. However, to the ire of nature lovers, bird watchers, researchers and wildlife photographers, the department is not paying any heed to the continuous reports we have prepared from Migrant Eco Watch of the illegal fishing going on in the area. But all such requests of stopping the illegal fishing have been turned to deaf ears. Initially around 500 pelicans were counted on a single day. Now due to increased illegal fishing (that is also encouraged by local people), the number of these birds have dwindled to a mere 50 – 60.

I am sending you some pictures taken by me during my last visit (last weekend) and also a rare photo of the illegal fishing activity that I managed to capture on my lens. I wish you can publish this news in leading dailies in and around Kerala.

Fig: Only 50 -60 pelicans remain on the central island, Hebbal Lake, Bangalore

Fig: A fishing hut visible on the farthest corner of the Hebbal Lake

Regards,
Arunava Das
Migrant Eco Watch
NCBS, Bangalore; Green Peace, Bangalore

&

Fellow,
WWF-Ooty and The Nilgiris Wildlife and Biodiversity Association

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