Species In News: Sandfish


    In News 

    • Recently, it has been noticed that South Africa’s sandfish are on the brink of extinction.

    About Sandfish 

    • They are migratory freshwater fish found only in South Africa that can grow to over half a metre in length
    • They sport a pronounced downturned mouth, which is used to graze algae off rocks and to grub in mud and sand on the stream bed.
    • They are one of the largest grazers in South Africa’s Doring River system.
    • They keep the rivers clean and the food web balanced. 

    Image Courtesy: DTE

    • They also act as an umbrella species therefore  protecting them indirectly protects river ecosystems and other species that inhabit them. 
    • Threats 
      • Migratory life cycle of the species that protects river systems makes them vulnerable to human-linked impacts
    • The construction of dams that block upstream spawning migrations, extreme climatic events, and rivers that are drying due to climate change, thirsty alien plants, and the excessive withdrawal of water to supply agriculture and towns in arid regions.
    • The biggest worry is the lack of juvenile and subadult sandfish in the Doring River. 
      • It indicates an ageing population with few, if any, young sandfish surviving the precarious early life stages.
    • Conservation Efforts 
    • In 2018 ,Saving Sandfish Project was initiated 
      • The goal was to better understand the most pressing threats to the sandfish and restore the species to sustainable numbers.
      • It has created awareness of the problems of river conservation in this arid region. 
    • The sandfish has an impressive spawning strategy. It migrates dozens (perhaps even hundreds) of kilometres each year to reach its tributary spawning grounds.
      • Protecting the species therefore requires collaboration with landowners whose farms and lands are crossed by the rivers that the sandfish inhabit
    • Working with farmers
      • In addition to providing sanctuary dams, landowners help to transport rescued sandfish, replace old in-stream fencing with sandfish-friendly fencing, provide accommodation for scientists and even help with river monitoring.