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T. Petr
27 McLeod Street, Toowoomba Qld 4530, Australia


Little information is available on the current status of fish stocks and fisheries in Afghanistan. Coad (1981) mentioned that coldwater fish stocks in the upper Kabul River basin are dominated by a variety of the cyprinid snow trout (Schizothoracini) and cobitids. The extent of subsistence fishery is unknown. A trout farm, established in 1967 at Qargha close to Kabul, was rehabilitated in 1989, with the production of rainbow trout fingerlings and their on-growing in cages in the near Qargha Reservoir targeted at 10 t per year. Only 6 t were achieved as this project, assisted by the UNDP/FAO, had to be abandoned because of disturbances in 1990. Even less is known about warmwater fish production. In the past production from the fish farm in Darunta and the adjacent Darunta Reservoir, 150 km east of Kabul, reached 30 t (1973). In 1992 Darunta Dam was seriously damaged in the war. The total fish production in Afghanistan was estimated to be 1300 t in 1995, but no concrete statistical data exist for the country for over 10 years. Therefore the true figure may be considerably different from the estimate.


Afghanistan (Fig. 1) is a landlocked country, which covers an area of 652,225 km2, nearly 75% of which is mountainous. The average elevation is 1300 m. The climate varies sharply between highlands and lowlands. It is sub-polar in the mountainous northeast with dry, cold winters, with temperatures falling to -26oC or lower in the Hindu Kush range. South of the highlands lies an arid, virtually uninhabited southwestern plateau. There are three great river basins: the Amu-Darya (Oxus), which forms the boundary with Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in the north; the Kabul in the northeast, which enters Pakistan in the east where it has a confluence with the Indus; and the Helmand in the southwest, which ends in Iran in a desert lake immediately after crossing the border in the southwest. The source of surface water in all rivers is precipitation, and consequent snow melt, over the central mountain ranges extending from the Pamir mountain knot at the western termination of the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush and its outliers, and the ranges of Hazarajat (Fig. 2). For the net of Afghanistan rivers see Fig. 3.

The following information leans heavily on the publication of Coad (1981), who briefly reviewed the hydrography in his introduction to the check-list of fishes of Afghanistan.

Maximum water flow is in the spring and early summer and minimum flow is in late summer to winter over much of the country. Many rivers dry up along sections of their course or are reduced to isolated pools during the minimum-flow period. This natural condition is aggravated by water abstraction for irrigation and other purposes,, and rivers tend to disappear before reaching their principal river or lake (Coad, 1981). In the Pamir and Nurestan areas of the northeast, melting glaciers feed the rivers in July and August, but with the advancing freezing temperatures the flow rate greatly diminishes. Rivers along the northeast border with Pakistan are affected by the monsoon and have maximum flows twice a year: July to September and January to April. There are few freshwater lakes in Afghanistan, the largest being those of Sistan which lie mostly in Iran but are hydrographically part of Afghanistan. Major perennial rivers are the Amu Darya, Qonduz (=Kunduz), Kowcheh (=Kokcha), Band-e Amir, Kabul, Lowgar (=Logar), Panjsher, Laghman, Konar (=Kunar), Sorkh Ab, Helmand, Arghandab, Hari Rud and Morghab (=Murgab). The following notes deal only with the major rivers and their major tributaries. Their names, and the names of smaller rivers not mentioned here, but recorded in Fig. 3, will also appear where appropriate in Table 1, which lists the individual fish species and their occurrence.

The Amu Darya River has its sources in the Pamirs, and it ends in the Aral Sea. The lower 1300 km of a total of 2500 km lies wholly outside Afghanistan. Coad included in his list of fish species those which occur in the lower Amu Darya as they may penetrate upriver either naturally or by being stocked there. He did not include fish of the Zarafshan River and its tributaries Kara Darya and Ak Darya, although Zarafshan is now connected with Amu Darya through canals. In its upper reaches the Amu Darya is known as Vakhan River (Vakhsh), then as Panj River (Pyandzh), when it receives the Pamir River. In Afghanistan the Panj is called the Amu Darya when it is joined by the Kowkcheh (=Kokcha) River. However, in Tajikistan, the name of Amu Darya starts from the entry of the Vakhsh. The Qonduz River enters the Amu Darya near its junction with the Vakhsh River.

The Murgab River (or Morghab) has its source in the western Hindu Kush, flowing west and then north to the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan border, crossing into Turkmenistan, where it is lost in the sands of the Kara Kum Desert.

The Hari Rud River, which starts in the centre of Afghanistan, flows directly west and eventually enters Turkmenistan where it is called Tedzhen. It also ends in the sands of the Kara Kum Desert.

The Helmand River has its source not far away from the source of the Kabul River. It flows southwest for about 1300 km before it empties into the Sistan lakes. The river with its tributaries drains about 40% of Afghanistan and has the largest drainage basin. Only the Helmand River is perennial. It has been dammed in several places.

The Kabul River has its source in the mountains west of Kabul and flows east to join the Indus River north of Attock. The river is dammed in several places. It receives a number of tributaries, such as the Panjsher, Laghman, Konar, Lowgar and Sorkh Rud. The Swat and Khiali rivers enter the Kabul River in Pakistan.


The list of fishes as given in Table 1 is an abbreviated version of a more detailed account of fish of Afghanistan by Coad (1981). Species marked * have not been reported from Afghanistan but occur in adjacent or contiguous drainage basins. Species marked # have been introduced into Afghanistan. The species Pungitius platygaster was left out from the list as it occurs only in the Aral Sea and Amu Darya delta.

Table 1. List of fish species found in Afghanistan (from Coad, 1981)



Family: Acipenseridae

Acipenser nudiventris

Panj River

Pseudoscaphirhynchus hermanni

Amu Darya at Termez

Pseudoscaphirhynchus kaufmanni

Panj River

Family: Esocidae

*Esox lucius

Amu Darya at Pitnyak (lower reaches of Amu Darya)

Family: Salmonidae

Oncorhynchus mykiss

Stocked in 1966 into the Salang and Panjsher

Salmo trutta

Also known as S.t.aralensis. Upper Amu Darya; Panj; Bamian

Family: Cyprinidae

*Abramis brama

In lakes along the Amu Darya up to above Turtkul

*Abramis sapa

Amu Darya up to Pitnyak

Alburnoides bipunctatus

Murgab River; upper Amu Darya

Alburnoides taeniatus

Amu Darya above Termez; Qonduz; Khanabad

Amblypharyngodon mola

Kabul River

Aspidoparia jaya

Kabul River

*Aspidoparia morar

SE Iran; Swat R. (Pakistan);

Aspiolucius esocinus

Amu Darya and lower reaches of its tributaries in Tajikistan; lower Panj River

Aspius aspius

Amu Darya up to Kafirnigan River

Barbus brachycephalus

Amu Darya up to Fayzabadkala on the Panj

Barbus capito

Amu Darya up to Fayzabadkala on the Panj; Qonduz River at Qonduz; Andarab River;

Barilius vagra

Rivulet at Khost - Chamkani River drainage; Kabul River; Zhob River; Wana Toi, a tributary of the Gumal River in Pakistan

Capoeta capoeta

Helmand; Harirud; Tedzhen; Murgab; Qonduz, upper Amu Darya; Panj

*Capoeta fusca

Iranian drainage of the Namakzar

Capoetobrama kuschakewitschi

Amu Darya to the Panj; Surkhan; Kafirnigan; Qonduz; Khanabad;

#Carassius auratus

Kabul River; Pishin Lora drainage; lower Amu Darya drainage

*Chalcalburnus chalcoides

Amu Darya up to Kushkantau

Cirrhinus burnesiana

At Jalalabad?

Cirrhinus reba

Kabul River

Crossocheilus latius

Kurram River (Chamkani R. in Afghanistan) in Pakistan; several other rivers in Pakistan;

#Ctenopharyngodon idella

Kabul River drainage

Cyprinion watsoni

River at Kushk in NW Afghanistan; Nushki and Quetta in Pakistan; Khost; Sistan; Zhob; Kurram and Wana Toi, both in Pakistan

Cyprinus carpio

Amu Darya up to Panj; Murgab; Tedzhen, Lake Gusar; Qonduz, Khanabad

Danio devario

Kabul River

Esomus danricus

Kabul River

*Garra gotyla

Zhob River drainage

Garra rossica

Tedzhen; Murgab; Koshk; Shila; Pishin Lora; Helmand; Sistan; Wana Toi (Pakistan)

*Garra rufa

eastern Khorasan (Iran)

Gobio gobio

Amu Darya at Termez; Kafirnigan; Tedzhen; Murgab; Koshk

#Hemiculter leucisculus, Qonduz; Khanabad


*Hemigarra elegans


#Hypophthalmichthys molitrix

Kabul River drainage

Labeo angra

Kabul River

Labeo dero

Kabul River

Labeo diplostomus

Kabul River

Labeo dyocheilus

Kabul River

Labeo gonius

Kabul River

Labeo pangusia

Kabul River

*Leuciscus idus

Amu Darya up to Pitnyak

Leuciscus latus

Haridut; Murgab; Tedzhen

*Leuciscus lehmanni

Surkhan Darya; Kafirnigan

*Leuciscus leuciscus


Pelecus cultratus

Amu Darya up to Panj

#Pseudorasbora parva


Ptychobarbus conirostris

Afghanistan (?)

Puntius conchonicus

Kabul River;

Puntius sarana

Kabul River

Puntius sophore

Kabul River

*Punius ticto

Lower Swat River (Pakistan)

Rutilus rutilus

Amu Darya up to Pitnyak; Khanabad

Salmostoma bacaila

Kabul River

*Salmostoma punjabensis

Swat River drainage (Pakistan)

*Scardinius erythrophthalmus

Amu Darya up to Pitnyak

Schizocypris brucei

Sistan; in Pakistan: Wana Toi; Zhob; Kurram

Schizocypris ladigesi

Chamkali drainage; Khost; Ali Khel

Schizocypris stoliczkae

Upper Amu Darya in the Pamirs, upper Helmand

*Schizothorax anjac


Schizothorax barbatus

Kabul River

Schizothorax chrysochlora

Kabul River; Chamkani drainage; Lowgar

Schizothorax edeniana

Kabul River

Schizothorax esocinus

Kabul and Helmand drainages; Chitral drainage

Schizothorax gobioides


Schizothorax intermedius

Upper Amu Darya; Panj; Gunt; Bartang; Tanyas Pamir; Indus and Helmand River basins

Schizothorax labiatus

Panjsher; Konar; Kabul; in Pakistan Zhob; Chitral and Swat River drainages

Schizothorax microcephalus

Panjah (entering the Oxus)

Schizothorax pelzmani

Murgab; Tedzhen; Iranian drainages of Tedzhen and Germab rivers

Schizothorax plagiostomus

Pich; Salang; Panjsher; Paghman; Dasht-e- Navar; Farrakhollum; in Pakistan Kurram

*Schizothorax schumacheri


Schizothorax zarudnyi

Harut (Adraskan)

Tor putitora

Kabul River and its drainage

*Tor zhobensis

Zhob River basin (Pakistan)

Family: Cobitidae

Noemacheilus (Triplophysa) akhtari

Helmand at Farakhollum

Noemacheilus (Schistura) alepidotus

Swat River drainage and the Ghowr Band (=Chorband) River in the Kabul River basin

Neomacheilus (Triplophysa)

Amu Darya from Chardzhou to Aivadzh amudarjensis

Noemacheilus (Schistura)

Kajaki in Helmand River drainage baluchiorum Sistan

Noemacheilus (Paracobitis)

Sistan and the Helmand River drainage boutanensis

Noemacheilus (Triplophysa) brahui

Pakistan: Nushki and Pishin

*Noemacheilus (Triplophysa) choprai

Pakistan: Chitral and Swat River drainages

*Noemacheilus (Schistura) corica

Pakistan: Bannu - drainage of the Kurram

Noemacheilus (Paracobitis) cristatus

Murgab; Qual el-Chabrak; Harirud drainage; Helmand drainage; Pakistan: Zhob drainage

*Noemacheilus (Deuterophysa) dorsalis

Amu Darya basin in the mountains; Kafirnigan River

Noemacheilus (Triplophysa) farwelli

Helmand River

Noemacheilus (Paracobitis) ghazniensis

Ghazni River

Noemacheilus (Triplophysa) griffithi

Sistan basin; Arghandab; Kabul River and drainage; Chorband; Salang; Paghman Pakistan: Swat

Noemacheilus (Schistura) kessleri

Ghazni River; Janichel (?); in Pakistan - Pishin Lora drainage; Nushki; Pishin; Iran - in SE

Noemacheilus (Triplophysa) kullmanni


*Noemacheilus (Oreias) kuschakewitschi

Dyushambinka River in Kafirnigan River basin

Noemacheilus (Paracobitis)

Tedzhen and Murgab drainages; Khanabad



Noemacheilus (Paracobitis) malapterurus

Tedzhen, Murgab, Amu Darya and Panj rivers; Helmand River in Sistan

*Noemacheilus (Schistura) naseeri

Pakistan: Swat River

Noemacheilus (Orthias) oxianus

Amu Darya up to Panj River

*Noemacheilus (Schistura) pakistanicus

Pakistan: Zhob River drainage


(Schistura) prashari

Noemacheilus (Paracobitis) rhadineus Helmand; Tedzhen; Murgab; Pakistan: Zhob River drainage

Helmand River drainage

Noemacheilus (Schistura) sargadensis

Pech River in the Kabul River basin: Iran: Baluchistan; Turkmenistan: east of Ashgabat

*Noemacheilus (Triplophysa) stenurus

Helmand catchment; Pakistan: Chitral and Swat rivers

Noemacheilus (Triplophysa) stoliczkae

Upper Amu Darya; Gunt; Tanymas; upper Helmand; Indus River mountain basin; Bamian;

Noemacheilus (Triplophysa) tenuis

Upper Amu Darya drainage in the Pamirs; Koshk; Gunt; Sistan

Sabanajewia aurata

Tedzhen; Murgab; Amu Darya basin to the Pamirs

Family: Bagridae

Mystus seenghala


Mystus tengara


Rita rita

Kabul River; Khyber Pass

Family: Siluridae

Ompok bimaculatus


Ompok canio

Kabul River

Ompok pabda

Kabul River; Pakistan: Wana Toi

Silurus glanis

Amu Darya; Qonduz; Murgab

Wallago attu

Pakistan: Pishin Lora drainage

Family: Schilbeidae

*Clupisoma naziri

Pakistan: Khiali River - a tributary of the Kabul River in Pakistan

Family: Sisoridae

Glyptosternum akhtari

Bamian River

Glyptosternum reticulatum

Upper Amu Darya; Bamian; Kabul River drainage; Panjsher; Salang; Paghman; Surchab; Chitral valley; Andarab

*Glyptothorax cavia

Pakistan: Khiali; Swat River drainage

Glyptothorax jalalensis

Kabul River

*Glyptothorax naziri

Pakistan: Zhob River drainage

*Glyptothorax punjabensis

Pakistan: Khiali River

*Glyptothorax stocki

Pakistan: Swat River

Family: Poeciliidae

#Gambusia affinis

Sistan; Tedzhen; Murgab; Amu Darya basin; Khanabad; Kabul. Pakistan: Pishin Lora

Family: Percidae

*Gymnocephalus cernua

Amu Darya

*Perca fluviatilis

Amu Darya

*Stizostedium lucioperca

Amu Darya

Family: Gobiidae

#Rhinogobius similis


Family: Channidae

Channa gachua

Kabul River drainage

Channa punctatus

Kabul River drainage

Family: Mastacembelidae

*Mastacembelus armatus

Pakistan: Zhob River

With regards to coldwater fish, Coad (1981) made the following notes. The upper reaches of the Kabul basin are dominated by a variety of snow trout (Schizothoracini) and cobitid species which are adapted to cold, fast-flowing mountain streams. The fish fauna of the upper Amu Darya is impoverished in comparison with that of the lower parts of the drainage basin. Certain species found in the upper Amu Darya are also found in the upper reaches of adjacent drainages. For example Glyptosternum reticulatum is also found in the Kabul system and the Tarim basin. The Helmand River is the largest of the three major drainage basins of Afghanistan and has the least diverse ichthyofauna in terms of number of species. Noemacheilus stoliczkae and Schizothorax intermedius are found in all three major drainages.

Afghanistan rivers and streams contain a mixture of Oriental and Palaearctic species, of northern and southern species and of high and low altitude-adapted species. The fauna is divided between Oriental and Palaearctic species. The fauna is dominated by Cyprinidae (56.9%), Cobitidae (24.5%) and to a lesser extent by Siluriformes (11.8%).


Fisheries activities in rivers and streams of Afghanistan have been very limited, and information on the number of fishermen, fish species captured, yields and total catch does not exist. The FAO Yearbook on Fishery Statistics has been publishing estimates of catches, rising from 800 t in 1986 to 1300 t in 1995 (FAO, 1997) as compared to the estimate of 100 t for 1963 (El Zarka, 1973). The true situation may be considerably different from these estimates, as no concrete data have been submitted by Afghanistan for at least the last 10 years. It is recognised that fish does not contribute much to the economy of the country and therefore is not paid the same attention as other animal resources.

In 1967 a trout fish hatchery was established at Qargha Dam, about 15 km from Kabul. The dam, constructed across the River Paghman, created a water reservoir of about 50 km2. The hatchery was supplied with water from this reservoir. In the 1970s it was producing about 30,000 trout fingerlings, which were stocked into the Qargha Reservoir and the rivers Panjsher, Bamian, Salang and Sarde (El Zarka, 1973). The stocking of the reservoir was done largely for licensed sport fishing. In the 1970s a second trout hatchery was located near the town of Paghman, west of Kabul.

In 1987, assistance was provided by the UNDP/FAO to rehabilitate the Qargha Fish Farm near Kabul. During 1988-89 supplies of spring water were restored, egg incubators repaired and fitted with new egg trays, and the hatchery brought back into production. The intention was to produce fish to market size in floating cages moored in the adjacent Qargha Reservoir. Concrete raceways next to the farm were also brought back into usable condition. Rainbow trout were grown from eyed eggs imported from Denmark in 1988, and by 1989 six tons of fingerlings were produced. The deteriorating security situation in 1989 interfered with a successful completion of the project, with much of the trout production being stolen or sold underweight. Only 3 tons were sold, against a target of 10 tons. Nevertheless, the project demonstrated the technical feasibility of culturing rainbow trout at Qargha fish farm (FAO, 1990).

At the same time a warmwater fish farm was located alongside Darunta, 150 km east of Kabul. This hatchery was completed in 1966 with the assistance of China, and China also provided technical assistance until 1972. Darunta fish farm was producing fingerlings of four carp species (grass, silver, common, and bighead). The fingerlings were stocked into Darunta Reservoir, and resulted in the production of 144.2 t of fish over the period of 1967-1973, with 30 t captured in 1973 (El Zarka). At that time there were 41 fishermen harvesting the reservoir fish. Management of fish stocks in the reservoir faced several problems, such as escape of fish during floods over the flood controlling gates, and the presence of dense aquatic vegetation. By 1973 a decline in catches was also observed. Nevertheless, it was believed that reservoirs would be important for the future development of inland fisheries. At that time, apart from Darunta, four other reservoirs were situated in not too great a distance from Kabul: Neghlo, Soroby, Arghandab and Kajaki. Kajaki Reservoir was considered to have more favourable conditions for fish production than Arghandab Reservoir, which was considered too oligotrophic, and also subject to drastic drawdown. In 1992 Darunta Dam was seriously damaged in the war.


Coad, B.W. 1981. Fishes of Afghanistan, an annotated check-list. Publications in Zoology, No. 14. National Museum of Canada, Ottawa. 26pp.

FAO. 1990. Rainbow trout culture in Qargha Fish Farm, Kabul. Afghanistan. Project findings and recommendations. AFG/86/013. FAO, Rome. 8pp.

FAO. 1997. FAO Yearbook. Fishery Statistics, Catches and Landings 1995. Vol. 80. FAO, Rome. 713pp.

El-Zarka, S. 1973. Report on travel to Afghanistan, 1-4 October 1973. FAO, Rome. 14pp.

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