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Saving the World's Freshwater Fish

Read Nature & Environment – Catching the ‘big one’ (PDF)

University researchers Zeb Hogan and Sudeep Chandra and Laurel Saito, assistant professor in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources (CABNR), are involved with a number of efforts to save the world’s freshwater fish. Much of the work is done through the University’s Aquatic Ecosystems and Analysis Lab in CABNR.

One of the world's giant freshwater fish

“One of the most exciting things we are doing is the creation of a scholarship and research fund which is designed to provide our students with experiences to solve water issues across our state and in the world,” Chandra says. “The more we can involve our students, the more successful this effort will be.”

Chandra added that a scholarship fund has already been established. For more information, or to make a contribution, contact Jean Carbon, director of development for the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, Mail Stop 222, Reno, NV 89557, or phone 775-784-4390.

Here is a sampling of several of their projects, and how you can find out more.
In a study funded by the University of Nevada, Reno and the National Geographic Society Mission Programs, Hogan and Chandra have teamed up on a groundbreaking scientific adventure to find the world’s largest freshwater fish.  The project is exploring rivers and lakes around the world for fish such as the Mekong giant catfish, which is listed by The Guinness Book of World Records as the Earth's largest freshwater fish. Chandra and Hogan, together with Nevada students, will work with a network of other scientists in over a dozen countries to identify and investigate these fish to determine why their numbers are declining. The scientists will be searching for goliath catfish, giant stingrays, razor-toothed gars, massive carps, caviar-producing sturgeon and predatory salmon, all of which can grow to six feet or longer and weigh more than 200 pounds.

For more information, go to:

Salmon conservation in Mongolia through sustainable fly fishing; water quality research in Uzbekistan
Hogan and Chandra are also actively pursuing a project that would save the giant Siberian salmon, the taimen, which can reach two meters in length and weigh up to 100 kilograms. Its existence is threatened by poaching and habitat destruction. Hogan and Chandra are working with a group that has persuaded Mongolian Buddhist monks to help them preach preservation. The hope is that through the monks’ moral authority, fishermen will be persuaded to use catch-and-release fishing tactics. To help curry favor with the holy men of Mongolia, the group has agreed to help them the monks rebuild a local monastery that was destroyed in a government purge more than 70 years ago. Poachers and gold miners exploring the river valley and nearby mountains are threatening the fish. Losing the taimen would be a blow to this poor country, because sport fishermen provide one of its few significant sources of foreign currency. An international group including Sweetwater Travel, the International Finance Corp., the private lending arm of the World Bank, and the Taimen Conservation Fund, based in the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar, have put more than $2 million into this conservation project. Chandra says that money generated from sport fishing concession programs will not only be used by enforcement teams to protect the fish, but to prevent the poaching of other wildlife, including red deer and wolf. Research led by Saito and Chandra is also being conducted in Uzbekistan, the Central Asian country north of Afghanistan, regarding water resources and impacts of that agriculture, mining and other man-made influences have had. Through a combination of monitoring and interdisciplinary modeling, the project is working to assess water quality and aquatic ecosystems of irrigation lakes and the Amu Darya in Khorezm, Uzebekistan.

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Read "The Last of the Leviathans" in the June 22, 1007 issue of Science


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