Hilsa on the menu: Missing for nearly 50 years, prized fish could make comeback to UP dinner tables
It can be savoured when fried or cooked in mustard sauce.Although it is a tropical saltwater fish, it thrives in rivers and estuaries.Behera said that while Hilsa is a marine fish, it lays eggs in freshwater.
After virtually disappearing from dinner tables of Prayagraj and other cities in Uttar Pradesh following the construction of the Farakka Barrage in West Bengal, fish connoisseurs may finally be able to savour fresh Hilsa once again.
The authorities recently released in the Ganga's upstream about 30,000 of the elusive Hilsa fish brought from the barrage's lower portion. A few days ago, shoals of the prized fish were spotted in the river in Mirzapur.
Sandeep Behera, an advisor to the Union Jal Shakti ministry's National Mission for Clean Ganga, told PTI, ''The fact that the Hilsa has reached Mirzapur is an indication that the Ganga is gradually getting cleaned. ''Oxygen levels have also risen because the Hilsa moves very fast and it requires a lot of oxygen.'' Behera, who was here to attend a seminar by Nehru Gram Bharati (Deemed) University and ICAR-Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute, Barrackpore, said a fish ladder on the barrage allowed the Hilsa to move upstream earlier.
However, the ladder gate has been non-functional for years. Now, the gate is being changed so that the fish can swim upstream in the Hooghly river, Behera said.
A fish ladder is a pass along the divider wall of a barrage to enable migration of fishes.
Often described as the 'queen of fish', Hilsa is liked for its taste and smell. It can be savoured when fried or cooked in mustard sauce.
Although it is a tropical saltwater fish, it thrives in rivers and estuaries.
Behera said that while Hilsa is a marine fish, it lays eggs in freshwater. However, following the barrage's construction in 1971-72, it could not move upstream to lay eggs.
The tender for the fish ladder has been floated and it will be finalised in six to seven months. It is possible that the ladder will be replaced by the end of this year, he said.
A very popular variety of fish in West Bengal, Assam, Tripura and Odisha, Hilsa prices range from Rs 1,200 to Rs 3,000 per kg.
Hilsa, considered a nonpareil delicacy when fried, smoked or cooked in mustard sauce, typically travels up the Ganga, Brahmaputra and Irrawaddy from the Bay of Bengal during the rainy season to spawn.
The fish is also found in the Arabian Sea from where it swims upstream through rivers in Gujarat and Pakistan's Sindhu, as well as in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Vietnam and China seas.
The peak upstream migration of the fish coincides with the advent of monsoon in July and August and continues up to October and November, according to a 2017 report by the Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute.
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