RESEARCH carried out by a Bournemouth University lecturer has found one of the world’s most iconic freshwater fish is on the brink of extinction.

The humpback Mahseer, a giant carp which is renowned for its size and resilience, may disappear from the wild within a generation, according to research carried out by BU and St Albert’s College in Kochi, India.

Adrian Pinder, associate director of ecology at BU, has been studying the conservation status of 17 species of Mahseer, which populate the South and Southeast Asian rivers, over the last five years.

He said: “In 2010 I made my first trip the River Cauvery, where I realised the fish I was catching did not match the appearance of the iconic specimens I’d seen in historic photos.

“On returning to the UK, I interrogated the scientific literature and made contact with Dr Rajeev Raghavan based at St Albert’s College Kochi, to ask his opinion.

“Comparing photographs over the internet opened a can of worms and confirmed that very little was known about all of the Mahseer species.”

Results from the study, published in the Endangered Species Research international research journal, and co-written by Dr Robert Britton, identify pollution, low river flows and sand and gravel extraction as causes for the fish’s near extinction.

Blue-finned Mahseer, non-native relatives of the humpback Mahseer, have also been blamed for the giant carp’s decline after being artificially bred and introduced to the River Cauvery.

Their unnatural presence is said to have had a “catastrophic effect” on the native Mahseer species despite being moved there for conservational purposes.

Using specimens of the legendary humpback Mahseer, Mr Pinder hopes to get the fish put on the IUCN [International Union for Conservation of Nature] Red List as ‘critically endangered’ and prevent its extinction.

Mr Pinder said: “When you consider that the iconic giant panda and tiger are classified as endangered this puts things in context and demonstrates the urgency to act in sourcing native fish for culturing in local hatcheries.”