Contribution to the Ichthyofauna of Küçük Karaçay Stream, Hatay/Turkey - Page 03

Discussion

Eleven fish species, including five endemics and one exotic, in seven families were identified from two locations in the Küçük Karaçay Stream (Table 1). Previous studies on the fauna of the Küçük Karaçay Stream have resulted in the report of seven fish species occupying the stream (Okur and Yalçın-Özdilek, 2008 and Özcan, 2013). There are contradicting reports on endemic fishes of the Orontes. Although Smith and Darwall (2006) reported the presence of 11 to 17 endemic freshwater fish species in the Orontes River Basin in west Syria and south west Turkey, Fricke et.al. (2007) indicated that the number in the Orontes is seven. Despite the need for further studies to clarify such contradictions, the importance of the Küçük Karaçay is obvious since it shelters around 10% of the endemic fishes of the Orontes River Basin.

The conservation status of the ichthyofauna of the stream needs careful attention since water habitats are highly delicate and vulnerable ecosystems. The importance of Küçük Karaçay lays, especially, in that it has already sheltered endangered and critically endangered species. There hasn't been any action plan for the conservation of almost any of the species of Küçük Karaçay Stream except for G. rufa. Although G. rufa is listed under LC, it is under full protection with a regulation, enforcing a ban on fishing of the species, implemented by the government (Anonymous, 2012). Although a fishing regulation only exists for the red garra (Table 1) (Notice 2012/66 for Regulation of Amateur Fishing) put into action by the government (Anonymous, 2012), there is no further global or national conservation plan and action for endemic and native fish species of the stream. Despite a noticeable global concern for European eel (A. anguilla) there is no local or governmental regulation for its protection in the region, either.

Ichthyofauna of streams and creeks contributing to the River Orontes generally shows similarities in species composition (Özcan and Altun, 2015). However, there still is a considerable diversity which extends up to the springs of the water resources. The presence of fish showing different habitual needs such as catfish living in relatively hot and muddy water beds and facultative catadromous European eel are important indicators of the level of fish diversity in the stream.

Water abstraction for irrigation during the summer and drought are the main threats for the fish fauna of the stream. The construction of reservoirs is also a major threat for fish migration and dispersion. Especially fishes like eel need to migrate between sea and freshwater at different stage of their life span. Any barrier to prevent fish migration will harm the abundance, breeding and survival of migrating fishes.

Exotic species introduction without detailed consideration may be problematic for existing species of the ecosystem. Therefore the presence of exotic mosquitofish in the stream should be monitored carefully in order to minimize reverse effects on the endemic fishes of the stream. Mosquitofish is a potential competitor for numerous endemic fish species (Çetinkaya, 2006). Conservation plans should be determined accordingly and put into action for the protection against the exotic species. Therefore detailed biological and ecological studies should be designed and implemented.

Ichthyofauna of Küçük Karaçay is highly rich for endemic species. This stream deserves attention for conservation studies because there are five species out of 11 fishes, which are endemic to the Orontes River Basin and the Middle East. Further studies on, especially, the biology and the ecology of endemic species should be taken into action rapidly. Consequently, conservation plans should be designed according to the results of these studies and protection precautions should be implemented immediately in order to preserve the natural stocks.