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D. Djancharov
Kiev Street 96a, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan


In the mountainous country Kyrgyzstan the main source of water is ice- and snowmelt. There is a large natural lake Issyk-Kul, several smaller lakes, a number of reservoirs, of which Toktogul is the largest, and a number of rivers. The original fish stocks have been enhanced by introductions of exotic species, which gradually became dominant in fish catches. Regular stocking of Issyk-Kul (Sevan) trout (Salmo ischchan issykogegarkuni) has been practiced in lakes Issyk-Kul, Son-Kul and in Toktogul reservoir. Coregonids have been also introduced and have established self-propagating fish stocks. The introduced Chinese carps, common carp and pikeperch are several other fish of commercial importance which form an important component of fish catches from some waterbodies. From the native fish two species of dace (Leuciscus) are also important components of fish catches. Lake Issyk-Kul fish stocks are regularly enhanced by fish seed and fingerlings produced in two hatcheries/fish farms. The dissolution of the Soviet Union has led to a gradual decline in fisheries infrastructure, which formerly came from other states of the Soviet Union. Shortage of funds has resulted also in shortage of formulated feed which prevents fish production from being rehabilitated to the level prior to independence. The future of Kyrgyzstan fisheries appears to be in fish pond aquaculture.

1. Introduction

The Kyrgyz Republic or Kyrgyzstan is situated in the northeastern part of Central Asia. It borders Kazakhstan in the north-west, China in the south-east, Tajikistan in the south, and Uzbekistan in the west. Kyrgyzstan covers 198 500 km2, and is a mountainous country, with a range of altitudes from 400 m to 7 400 m. About half of the country’s territory is situated at an altitude of more than 3 000 m above sea level. The mountain masifs of Pamir-Alai and Tien Shan are the dominant features.

The climate of the country is strictly continental. The average January temperatures range from -1 oC to -8 oC in the valleys, and down to -27 oC in the mountains. Average July temperature ranges from +15 oC to +27 oC in the valleys and averages around +5 oC in the mountains. The average precipitation is from 180-250 mm/year in the eastern Tien Shan to 900-1 000 mm/year on the southwestern slopes of the Fergana mountains.

Small and large glaciers cover more than 8 000 km2. They contain about 700 km3 of water, which represents the main water source for rivers and groundwater. The volume of groundwater resources is estimated at 13.7 km3. The volume of the prospected and approved resources of 44 fields of fresh groundwater that can be utilized annually is 4.85 km3.

There are more than 3 500 rivers in the country, which belong to seven main river basins: Syr-Darya, Amu-Darya, Chu, Talas, Kurkure-Suu, Tarim, Ili, and to Lake Issyk-Kul (Isek-Kol). There is only about 20 percent difference in annual mean river discharge, due mainly to variations in melting of glaciers and snow.

Most rivers have a low winter discharge. On average the water discharge during the vegetation period represents 74 percent of the total annual discharge, compared to only 26 percent during the rest of the year.

Rivers receiving ice- and snowmelt water have approximately 60-85 percent of the annual discharge from March to August, with a peak in May. This type is typical for the rivers of the Fergana valley, e.g. the rivers Donguztau, Zerger, Yassy, Ugart. Water from these rivers is used for irrigation from the end of April or beginning of May, and water consumption reaches its peak in July/August. This type of water use is typical for the high and central part of the Naryn Basin and the basins of the Kyzyl-Suu and Tarim rivers.

The use of water from rivers with a mixed type of water supply starts increasing in March/April and reaches its peak in July/August, decreasing in September. This type is typical for example for the basins of the Chu and Talas rivers and the lower part of the Naryn basin.

Annual discharges of rivers originating in Kyrgyzstan are given in Table 1.

Table 1
Average annual discharges from water basins of Kyrgyzstan


Average annual discharge (km3)

Average annual discharge on
the territory of Kyrgyzstan










Talas and Kurkure-Suu






Issyk-Kul lake









The table shows that most water forms in the basins of:

- Amu-Darya and Syr-Darya (93.42 - 46.04 km3), and in
- Kyrgyzstan in the Syr-Darya, Tarim and Chu basins (27.4 - 61.15 - 5.0 km3).

Prior to the 1930s Kyrgyzstan waterbodies contained fish of seven families and 60 species and subspecies, the important species being sazan (wild form of Cyprinus carpio), osman (Dyptichus dybowskii), marinka-snowtrout (Schizothorax pseudaksaiensis issykkuli) and chebak (dace) (Leuciscus schmidti) in Lake Issyk-Kul, and pike (Esox lucius), catfish (Silurus glanis), marinka (Schizothorax issykkuli tschuensis), sazan and asp (Aspius aspius) in rivers and ponds of the Chu valley.

To increase fish production in waterbodies of Kyrgyzstan as well as to bring in more economically valuable fish species compared to some of the indigenous fish, introductions were carried out starting in the 1930s. Sevan trout (Salmo ischchan gegarkuni) and whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) were transferred from Lake Sevan in Armenia to Lake Issyk-Kul. Omul (Coregonus autumnalis), peled (Coregonus peled) and least cisco (Coregonus sardinella) were brought from Siberia, and other fish from elsewhere included khramulya (Varicorhinus capoeta), carp, pikeperch (Stizostedion lucioperca), whitefish (Coregonus spp.) and bream (Abramis brama). As a result of breeding Sevan trout in the Ton fish hatchery for stocking in Lake Issyk-Kul, their numbers there increased, and starting in 1975 fishing for this species was permitted in the lake.

According to the Kyrgyzstan President’s decree of 25 July 2000 and the resolution of Kyrgyz Government "Improving the government structure of the Kyrgyz Republic", the implementation of government policy in the spheres of development and coordination of water resources, organization of fishery, fish production and fish protection, was delegated to the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Processing Industry of the Kyrgyz Republic. A new unit was created in the ministry, called Sector of Fishery Industry. Its major objective is to improve fisheries management.

At present there are two complete fish farms, i.e. Uzgen and Talas, and Ton hatchery. The farms do not work at their full capacity because of lack of funds. The Uzgen fish farm started in 1968, with fish ponds constructed to produce 500 tonnes of fish annually. The 91 ponds cover 290 ha. The Talas fish farm started in 1975. It has 364 ha of ponds and an annual fish production capacity of 600 tonnes.

Formerly the state fisheries was the major producer of fish in Kyrgyzstan: Uzgen fish farm produced 400-500 tonnes and Talas fish farm 150 tonnes. The break of economic links with the former Soviet republics has led to shortage of hatchery equipment and special fish feeds. The government-run fisheries is at present in a critical situation, also due to shortage of funds, and this has been reflected in the decline in fish production. Ponds with low production capacity have been converted for cultivation of agricultural crops, such as tobacco, rice and maize to raise money for fisheries. But this is not sufficient. In order to achieve the previous level of fish production, the fisheries needs foreign investment.

At present the Talas and Uzgen state fish farms are producing carp, sazan and grass carp. The Talas fish farm produces approximately 45 000 two-year-old carps, the Uzgen farm about 200 000 carp fingerlings and 71 000 older fish. Private farmers grow fish in small waterbodies of Chu Oblast at Kara-Tuma, Puchuk, Maltabar, Stepninsky and Agermen, but further development of fish pond culture depends on improving the supply of fish feed. One of the main reasons for the dramatic decrease in fish pond production is the lack of suitable fish feed.

Recently, for the first time in two years, induced breeding of fish has been restarted in lakes Issyk-Kul and Son-Kul. Ton hatchery produces Issyk-Kul (Sevan) trout, for which it has an incubation capacity of about 10 million fry, as well as being able to produce 1 million of carp fry. However, on-growing is limited due to the shortage of suitable feed. In 1998, 398 000 young trout of 140 mg each were released, and in spring of 1999, 285 000 of 160 mg each were released. The planned quantities of whitefish were also produced. On 13 April 2000 there were further releases of Issyk-Kul trout into the lake, some of them from the Karakol fish farm. But to make both fish farms more effective and working at full capacity long-term favorable credits and grants are needed.

In Lake Son-Kul 18 200 whitefish eggs were fertilized and later on released to hatch naturally in the lake. To stop illegal fishing, in the year 2000 controls of fish on sale and of records on fish marketing were introduced. Fishing units have also received a contract for fishing specific areas. Fishery inspections now control the records on fish catches and fish production on fish farms. Fish farms and fishing units are now given technical and advisory support.

Kyrgyzstan’s fisheries badly needs financial support which has not been forthcoming for a number of years. Assistance is needed for the purchase of formulated feed, for rehabilitation of infrastructure of hatcheries and fish farms, for equipment as well as for fish transport.

At present commercial fishing is carried out mainly on lakes Issyk-Kul, Son-Kul, and on Toktogul reservoir. Uzgen and Talas fish farms produce common carp, grass carp and silver carp. During the period 1991-2000 the total fish catch from these three large waterbodies was 3 527 tonnes.

2. Lake Issyk-Kul

Lake Issyk-Kul is the largest lake in Kyrgyzstan and a major fisheries water body. Each year 1 000 to 1 200 tonnes of high quality fish are captured here. But according to the Issyk-Kul biological station of the Academy of Sciences, commercial fishery should not harvest more than 250-300 tonnes.

Lake Issyk-Kul is situated at an altitude of 1 608 metres, the lake surface area is 6 206 km2, average depth 279 m, and maximum depth 668 m. Shallows make up one fourth of the reservoir surface area. The lake is 179 km long and 60 km wide. It is saline, and with the exception of the bays Tyup and Rybachi, it is not covered with ice in winter. The maximum surface water temperature in summer reaches 21 oC.

Issyk-Kul is an internal drainage waterbody, with 59 large and small rivers entering it, but without an outflow. Most of the inflows are used for irrigation of agricultural lands in summer. The largest inflowing rivers are Karakol, Jergalan, Tyup and Barskaun.

The lake has 23 fish species, of which 12 are indigenous, 11 intentionally or incidentally introduced. The dominant commercial fish species are chebachok (Leuciscus bergi), pikeperch (Stizostedion lucioperca), chebak (Leuciscus schmidti), whitefish (Coregonus spp) and Issyk-Kul trout (Salmo ischchan issykogegarkuni). At present their stocks are satisfactory. There are good catches of both species of Leuciscus, but lower catches of the whitefish Coregonus lavaretus.

There is a potential for increasing catches of both species of Leuciscus as well as Coregonus lavaretus through exploitation of lake areas which are not used now. L. bergi is the main species fished and it dominates the catches. The introduced pikeperch is well distributed in all freshwater parts of the lake and puts a heavy pressure on both species of Leuciscus on which it feeds. There is therefore no limit placed on fishing for pikeperch which can be fished all year around. The main stocks of L. schmidti are in the western and eastern parts of the lake.

Fishing of the introduced whitefish started in 1982, and since the end of the 1980s its annual catches have ranged from 20 to 30 tonnes. It has established self-propagating stocks. The stocks of the Issyk-Kul (Sevan) trout are maintained by regular stocking, but the lake also has small self-propagating populations.

3. Lake Son-Kul

The high altitude Lake Son-Kul is the largest freshwater natural waterbody in Kyrgyzstan. The lake is situated in the central Tien Shan at an altitude of 3 016 m. It covers an area of 273 km2, and has a mean depth of 9.3 m.

Until 1959 the lake contained only aquatic invertebrates. Later on several fish species were introduced. These were hybrids of common carp and the wild form of the common carp, tench, Issyk-Kul trout, osmans Dyptichus dybowskii and D. maculatus, and Tibet loach Nemacheilus stoliczkai.

Fish introductions started in 1969 with stocking Coregonus peled. In 1974 C. lavaretus and C. nasus were added. At present the fish fauna of the lake is represented by the following species: Coregonus peled, C. lavaretus, D. maculatus, N. stoliczkai, and an occasional appearance of Coregonus nasus. The lake provides favourable conditions for C. peled and its fishing started in 1976. By that time the fish reached an average weight of 1 kg. Fish were captured in nets with a mesh size of 70 mm, and in 1976, 108 tonnes were harvested. The catches declined in the following years, with 45.4 tonnes harvested in 1990, 31.5 in 1995, and 24.6 in 2000. The decline in catches could have been caused by fishing during the breeding period, which hit the females before they had time to spawn.

4. Toktogul reservoir

The largest man-made water reservoir in Kyrgyzstan was constructed on the Naryn River as a storage for hydroelectricity production. The reservoir is at 900 m altitude and situated in the Ketmen-Tubin valley of Osh Oblast. Apart from the Naryn the reservoir also receives the rivers Chychkan, Uzun-Ahmat, Nichke and Kandul. It covers 284 km2 and the full storage capacity is 19.5 km3. The mean depth is 65 m, maximum depth 210 m. The reservoir is 70 km long and the maximum width is 13 km. The gorge in the western part of the reservoir is 6 km long and 90-95 m deep. The lake-like sector is much larger but also much shallower, with a maximum depth of only 15 m.

The average maximum water surface temperature is 20-23 oC, in winter 10 oC, pH is 7.5-8.0, concentrations of dissolved oxygen range from 9 to 13 mg/litre. The reservoir has a medium level of productivity.

The fish of the reservoir are derived from the fish stocks of the Naryn and its tributaries plus several introduced species. The local fish include Schizothorax intermedius, Syr-Darya dace (Leuciscus squaliusculus), asp (Aspius aspius), osman (Dyptichus spp.), stone loach (Nemacheilus barbatulus) and Turkestan catfish (Glyptosternum reticulatum). The introduced fish are Amu-Darya trout (Salmo trutta oxianus), grass carp, silver carp, bighead carp (Aristichthys nobilis), sazan, common carp, Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baeri) and Amur goby (Rhinogobius similis).

Commercial fishery started in 1978, but there were large differences between annual catches. During the first years (1978-1980) catches increased from 12.7 tonnes to 70 tonnes. A certain stabilization can be noticed since 1988, with catches reaching up to 25 tonnes. While initially the catches were dominated by Schizothorax intermedius, since 1989 the Amu-Darya trout has been the dominant species. In 1977, Issyk-Kul (Sevan) trout was introduced and, by 2000, 17.5 tonnes were captured, representing 68.9 percent of the total catch. The biology of this fish in Toktogul reservoir is not well known. According to the data collected during 1980-1990 its growth rate is similar to that in Lake Sevan. It reaches maturity at the age of 3-4 years, when 45-50 cm long. Females mature one year later than males. The number of eggs per female is 3 300 to 17 000 (average 6 500). The spawning starts usually in the second half of October at water temperature of 5.7-6.2 oC. It is probable that the trout has established a self-propagating population in this reservoir. It is believed that with regular stocking the sustainable annual catch could reach 120 to 150 tonnes.

The most suitable place for Issyk-Kul trout spawning is the river Uzun-Ahmat. But the trout often faces the problem of reaching spawning grounds. This needs to be resolved, in addition to enhancing hatchery production of a sufficient number of stocking material.

Snowtrout Schizothorax intermedius is a representative of the fish fauna of the Central Tien Shan. The new reservoir had favourable conditions for this species which dominated the catches during the early years. But a heavy fishing pressure on spawning stocks caused its decline to today’s level of 2-3 tonnes per year.

Starting in 1978 herbivorous Chinese carps (grass and silver) have been stocked in order to utilise aquatic plants and phytoplankton. They have adapted well to the reservoir conditions and have a fast growth rate. They are now common, but they do not reproduce in the reservoir. In 1991, 2.5 tonnes of silver carp and one tonne of grass carp were captured. The sturgeon Acipenser baeri was introduced in the reservoir in 1982. Very little is known what happened afterwards. Today it is extremely rare.

5. Other reservoirs

The following is a brief account of fish species found in less productive reservoirs of Kyrgyzstan:

Orto-Tokoy reservoir - snowtrout, osman, Issyk-Kul trout
Kirov reservoir - snowtrout, common carp, osman, grass carp, silver carp
Naiman reservoir - wild form of common carp, common carp
Bazar-Korgon reservoir - wild form of common carp, common carp.

The above listed irrigation reservoirs are not very suitable for commercial fish production because of the irregularities in water level and because of their low productivity. But they are suitable for recreational fisheries.

6. Discussion

For the perspectives of fisheries development in Kyrgyzstan (see Table 2).

Table 2
Perspectives of fisheries development in Kyrgyzstan

Waterbody, fish



Ponds, herbivorous fish

50 tonnes

300 tonnes


- Issyk-Kul (C. lavaretus, pikeperch, Leuciscus
bergi, L. schmidti, Issyk-Kul trout, bream)

85 tonnes

150 tonnes

- Son-Kul (C. peled, C. lavaretus)

40 tonnes

80 tonnes

- Kara-Suu (C. peled, Schizothorax)

5 tonnes

15 tonnes


-Toktogul (herbivorous: carp, sazan, Schizothorax)

40 tonnes

150 tonnes

-Bazar-Korgon (carp, grass and silver carps, Schizothorax)

10 tonnes

30 tonnes

- Orto-Tokoy (Schizothorax, Salmo trutta oxianus)

5 tonnes

20 tonnes


235 tonnes

745 tonnes

To improve the situation in fisheries the following assistance is needed:

Production of marketable fish can also be increased by expansion of the pond areas, intensification of fish production, reconstruction of hatcheries and fish farms, provision of credit and perfection of aquaculture technologies. Qualified staff should be employed for hatcheries and fish farms and they should be trained in efficient aquaculture methods.

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