Studying fish movements and habitat use in the rivers of the Shakhimardan enclave – fishing/tagging/tracking

During the last two weeks of October, INBO and TIIAME visited the Shakhimardan construction site to catch and tag fish. Tracking fish leads to detailed insights on how fish move and to which riverine habitats throughout the year. This basic knowledge is currently lacking on the target species, snow trout (Schizothorax eurystomus), but essential to develop a hydropower that has a minimum impact on the species.


The goal of the trip was to catch and tag 30 snow trouts with radio transmitters. Doing so, INBO trained the researchers from TIIAME in telemetry and tagging as knowledge transfer so they can conduct such studies themselves in the future. The snow trouts were caught by electro fishing equipment. After capture, fish of a taggable size were anaesthetized to put a radio transmitter in the abdominal cavity. The opening was surgically closed and upon recovery they were put back in the river near their capture location.


The trip was not a trivial endeavor. The river current was treacherously strong, making it hard to keep up right with the electro fishing equipment. Also, the fishing was hard at the start of the trip: we mainly focused on the Shakhimardan and Aksu rivers as we thought that the snow trouts would be in the deeper parts of the larger rivers to rest during the upcoming winter season. Despite catching a few, the majority of the fish came from the smaller Koksu tributary. Numbers leaning towards the hundreds were caught. We think that the slightly warmer temperature from the Koksu attracts the snow trouts for wintering and could therefore play a key role in their life cycle. However, this is an assumption that can be scientifically validated with the tracking research. We are therefore looking forward to the data that the researchers and students from TIIAME will collect in the coming year. Last but not least we want to thank the Shakhimardan community for their big hospitality!



For a detailed blog on the trip in Dutch, click here.




Author: Pieterjan Verhelst, INBO



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Photo credits: INBO