The Fish Bank Project: Transforming Fishing Cat and Fish-Farmers Conflict into Conservation

Ganesh Puri

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Fishing cat lives with fish-dependent communities. The fishing cat raids the fish from private fishponds. The farmers then kill fishing cats in retaliation of their fish depredation by snaring, poisoning and shooting. To overcome this problem and promote coexistence between fishing cat and fish-farmers, the community-based fish bank project will be implemented in the 5 villages of Kapilvastu district of Nepal. The fish bank helps to change the negative behaviour of the communities to mitigate retaliatory killings of fishing cats. The fish bank is a simple solution for the complex conflict and can replicate in other fishing cat habitats.

Meeting with local communities in the project site. © Ganesh Puri/Western Terai Fishing Cat Conservation Project.

Meeting with local communities in the project site. © Ganesh Puri/Western Terai Fishing Cat Conservation Project.

The compensation for fish farmers for losses caused by fishing cats along with the provision of fish hatchlings to support the fish bank, creates a mutually beneficial situation for both the farmers and the fishing cats. By reimbursing fish farmers for their losses caused by fishing cats, this intervention addresses the financial hardships they face. Consequently, farmers are less likely to take retaliatory actions against the fishing cats. This approach ensures the survival of the fishing cat species while the fish farmers are able to regain the fish they lost. The household income of the fish farmers will increase, the negative behaviour of the fish farmers will change and there will be the gradual development of the community stewardship for fishing cat conservation.

These interventions have a positive impact on the attitudes of fish farmers, fostering a sense of cooperation and motivation to participate in the fishing cat conservation efforts. The implementation of participatory and inclusive inception workshops serves as a means to bridge the communication gap between local people, including farmers, and the relevant authorities. This collaboration enhances future prospects for active engagement and cooperation of the local community in fishing cat conservation activities. Furthermore, the project includes fishing cat guardians programs for the children of fish farmers. They are trained in keeping records of lost fish, monitoring fishing cat habitats, and handling and installing camera traps. This training equips the younger generation with the necessary skills and knowledge to assist conservationists and concerned authorities in developing more effective conservation techniques when needed.

Header: A fishing cat with its catch in project site. © Ganesh Puri/Western Terai Fishing Cat Conservation Project.

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