M. S. Karaman (sr), 1971
The binni (Mesopotamichthys sharpeyi) is a species of cyprinid fish endemic to the Tigris-Euphrates river system. This barbel is the only member in its genus, but was included in the "wastebasket genus" Barbus by earlier authors. It may have declined notably in recent times due to habitat destruction.
The binni is a deep-bodied dark silvery barbel. The large scales bear parallel stripes; the fins are comparatively small. Full-grown specimens may reach a length of almost half a meter and weigh 800 grams or more, but as most individuals encountered are by far smaller, it seems to take some time to grow to such good size. Sexes are probably almost identical, though it may be notable that a male was among the largest recorded specimens (in many cyprinids females are larger than males). Not much is known about its ecology, but like similar relatives it is believed to be benthopelagic and feed on small animals and waterplants.
Known in the local Iraqi Arabic dialect as binni or bunni, this fish is valued highly by the Marsh Arabs. Their fishermen traditionally employ an unusual technique of combined spearfishing and Datura poison-fishing to catch it; until recently net-fishing was mostly restricted to the Berbera tribe and held in low esteem. Since the 1960s however, large-scale fisheries have also been developed; once of prime importance throughout Iraq, the marshland fish stocks presumably declined notably following the draining of the Mesopotamian Marshes.
Umm al Binni lake in Maysan Governorate, Iraq, was named after this species. Now mostly dried-up following the draining of the Central Marshes, its name attests to the former abundance of this fish and possible use as spawning ground (Umm is Arabic for "mother", but does not necessarily imply procreation). The lake is of interest as a possible impact crater mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
- Huckstorf, V. (2013). "Mesopotamichthys sharpeyi". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
- Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2011). "Mesopotamichthys sharpeyi" in FishBase. August 2011 version.
- Wilfred Thesiger, The Marsh Arabs, Penguin, 1967, p.92
- USAID, iraqmarshes.org