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illegal sand extraction upstream of Cauvery has put the Deccan mahseer in danger. "We have not caught a mahseer that weighs more than 10 kg in Shivasamudram (in Karnataka) in the past 10 years,'' says Prathap Ruthnaswamy of Wildlife Association of South India (wasi). The association manages fishing in the Shivasamudram dam and its canals.
Extensive illegal sand mining is carried out in the 30-km stretch from Mekadattu to Shivasamudram. It is also prevalent in Arkavathi and Shimsha riverbanks destroying the habitat of the mahseer. The rivers are the main spawning grounds of the fish. It is feared that the craters left by the illegal extraction may drastically change the course of the river, increase its depth and destroy the spawning areas of the mahseer. Another problem is the fingerlings fall prey to a growing population the African catfish. "Ten years from now and the African catfish could be most dominant in the Cauvery,'' warns Ruthnaswamy.
Construction of reservoirs on the river has led to diversion of the Cauvery river water and this too has affected mahseers.