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Inventory of the Kashmir Valley fish fauna 1990-1997

Author: Sven O Kullander
The NRM ichthyology section played an important role in the Aquatic Environmental Impact Assessment for the Uri hydroelectric power plant in the Kashmir Valley (Uri AEIA), organised by SWEDMAR and running from 1989 till 1998. NRM staff Anders Silfvergrip and Erik Åhlander participated in the field work, conducted in short periods from 1990 till 1997, and authored progress reports. The final report appeared in 1999 and summarises the systematic composition of the fauna encountered (Kullander et al., 1999).
kashmir fish

The fish fauna of the Jhelum River is one of the earliest local fish faunas known to science. The first collection was made by the Austrian Carl Alexander Anselm von Hügel at the end of a long trip through Eurasia over the period 1831-1836, and deposited in the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria. Heckel (1838, 1844) published two well illustrated taxonomic accounts of the fish collection based on Hügel's specimens, summing to 16 species all of which he considered to be new to science. Ten of the species belong to the group of cyprinid fishes now commonly referred to as oreinins, schizothoracines, mountain barbels, snow trout, or snow barbels. In the minds of ichthyologists and others interested in fishes, the Kashmir Valley is forever The Snow Barbel Place.

The Uri AEIA encountered 14 native and four introduced fish species. We failed to locate the mahseer Tor macrolepis (Heckel, 1838), described from the valley, but later synonymised with T. putitora (Hamilton, 1822), a major, migrating food fish in the Indus drainage, reported from all of the rivers of the southern Himalayan slope. Loss of T. putitora from the upper Jhelum is likely due to migration barriers, especially the Mangla Dam, which does not permit any fish, passage. Only one of the native species is a new record for the valley, viz., the small hillstream catfish Glyptothorax pectinopterus, which may have escaped collecting earlier because of its small size combined with preference for fast current. The introduced Carassius carassius (Linnaeus, 1758) was not reported from the Kashmir Valley in 1990 when the Uri AEIA started.

Map of collecting sites of the Uri AEIA. Numbers are Field site numbers.

None of the introduced salmonid species were encountered, although the presence of both brown trout, Salmo trutta (Linnaeus, 1758), and rainbow trout, Oncorynchus mykiss, is confirmed by local spokesmen. Also absent from the samples are the large, high-altitude cold-water oreinins Ptychobarbus conirostris Steindachner, 1866, Diptychus maculatus Steindachner, 1866, and Schizopygopsis stolickai Steindachner, 1866.

The status of Triplophysa ajmonis (Di Caporiacco, 1933), described from the upper Sindh River, but never mentioned by Indian authors, remains uncertain. It may be the same species as T. gracilis (Day, 1877), and then likely restricted to high altitudes.
The silurid catfish Silurus lamghur, was described by Heckel (1838) from the Jhelum. It is possibly a synonym of Ompok pabda (Hamilton, 1822). No silurid species has since then been reliably reported from the Kashmir Valley and Hügel's material was probably collected from further downstream in the Jhelum or from elsewhere.
Also, the snow barbel fauna is much smaller than has been proposed by most authors, with only five instead of up to 14 species.

The following classification lists all fish species known or expected from the Kashmir Valley between Dal Lake and Uri.

Superorder Ostariophysi
   Order Cypriniformes
        Family Cyprinidae
             Subfamily Cyprininae
                   Tribe Cyprinini
                       Cyprinus carpio Linnaeus, 1758 - Introduced
                       Carassius carassius (Linnaeus, 1758) - Introduced
                      Tor putitora (Hamilton, 1822) - Extirpated
                   Tribe Systomini
                       Puntius conchonius (Hamilton, 1822) - Introduced
                   Tribe Oreinini
                       Schizothorax plagiostomus Heckel, 1838
                       Schizothoras labiatus (McClelland & Griffith, 1842)
                       Schizothorax curvifrons Heckel, 1838
                       Schizothorax niger Heckel, 1838
                       Schizothorax esocinus Heckel, 1838
                   Tribe Labeonini
                        Bangana diplostoma (Heckel, 1838)
                       Crossocheilus diplochilus (Heckel, 1838)
       Family Cobitidae
           Subfamily Botiinae
                        Botia birdi Chaudhuri, 1912
       Family Balitoridae
          Subfamily Nemacheilinae
                       Schistura punjabensis (Hora, 1923)
                      Triplophysa marmorata (Heckel, 1838)
                      Triplophysa kashmirensis (Hora, 1922)
   Order Siluriformes
        Family Sisoridae
                      Glyptosternon reticulatum McClelland & Griffith, 1842
                      Glyptothorax kashmirensis Hora, 1923
                      Glyptothorax pectinopterus (McClelland, 1842)
Superorder Protacanthopterygii
   Order Salmoniformes
        Family Salmonidae
              Subfamily Salmoninae
                       Salmo trutta Linnaeus, 1758 - Introduced
                       Oncorynchus mykiss (Walbaum, 1892) - Introduced
Superorder Acanthopterygii
   Order Cyprinodontiformes
         Family Poeciliidae
              Subfamily Poeciliinae
                       Gambusia holbrooki Girard, 1859 - Introduced

All fish material collected by the Uri AEIA is maintained in the Swedish Museum of Natural History, where all of it is now computer catalogued and searchable online.


HECKEL, J.J. 1838. Fische aus Caschmir. Carl Freiherrn v. Hügel, Wien.
HECKEL, J.J. 1844. Fische Kaschmir's nebst einem Anhang von drei neuen Arten aus Indien, gesammelt von Freiherrn Carl v. Hügel. Pp. 350-392 in Hügel, C. v., Kaschmir und das Reich der Siek. Vierter Band. Zweite Abtheilung. Hallberger'sche Verlagshandlung, Stuttgart.
KULLANDER, S.O., F. FANG, B. DELLING & E. ÅHLANDER. 1999. The fishes of the Kashmir Valley. Pp. 99-167 In Nyman, L. (ed.), River Jhelum, Kashmir Valley. Impacts on the aquatic environment. Swedmar, Gothenburg.