As the biodiversity intern at GVI Chiang Mai, I have a biodiversity related project. I still see the elephants practically every day, but I also have to do something else. And that something else is go fishing. Every Tuesday I grab my net (homemade by my homestay), pull on my wellies and head down to the river with my pack of volunteer-ducklings following behind.
I thoroughly enjoy fishing. Pulling the net out of the water and seeing a little silvery fish flopping around at the bottom, knowing you caught this master-of-water with your own hands, it doesn’t get much more rewarding than that!
As with all things in life, I can’t just fish for joy (despite it being one of my favourite things to do here). My aim was to start up a project which, over time, will document all the fish species found in the area, and where they’re more or less prevalent. It is something for me to pass on to the next biodiversity intern, to pick up as their own project and to integrate into normal weekly hikes. Fishing was not a regular thing when I first arrived here, despite staff saying how fun it was, and it has been incredible to see people getting into that routine of knowing you can go fishing on a Tuesday if you want to.
So what do I actually do when I go fishing? I created a data record sheet and key, so t
hat when we catch a fish we can record it. Eventually I would love to see the combination of water testing hikes and fishing hikes, to understand how water quality affects fish in the area. Each time we catch a fish we record its length, width, colour and other characteristics, along with where it was found, water depth and water speed. As this project is only just starting out, I’m only using this data to identify the fish. Currently I have identified two species, the Giant Danio (or Giant Daniel as we like to call it) and the blacktail shiner.
Whilst fishing is a joy, it is simultaneously so frustrating! Especially when you
have a time limit and work to get done based around it. Catching fish during the day is nigh on impossible. Don’t ask me where the fish go, because I have been out at night and I see the water teaming with fish, but during the day they are gone. Gone. You can turn over rocks and stick your net through twisting roots and other hard to reach places but the fish are just not there. I have been night fishing before, but it was before I started collecting data. I keep pushing for night fishing hikes but as of yet one hasn’t happened.
But all is not lost! This isn’t a project with a time limit, it’s just that I have a time limit on being here. The next biodiversity intern can (and hopefully will), pick up where I left off, and get a whole load of data throughout hot season, and then the next person can get data through rainy season and so on. The data collection never ends!
I feel very proud to have set this up myself, almost like a legacy that can continue on here in Huay Pakoot. Eventually it would
be great to have a species list brimming with fish, and then to go to the villagers and find out what they call each one in Pakinyaw. Probably just “shiny fish,” “tastey fish” and “slimy fish,” the language is very literal and blunt.
I still have one month left here, and who knows what may happen in a month. I
still have my eye on that freshwater river monster.