General Overview of Area and History of Assessment
Armash fish-farm is located in Ararat Plain at elevations 780-790 m a.s.l., and represents the largest carp-farm in Armenia, which consists on 29 earth ponds with total cover of 1,514 ha. The area also includes large areas of saltwort semi-desert. The site was last assessed as IBA in 2013.
In total, there are 234 species of birds recorded here, among those, 93 species are breeding and 141 species are migrating through the area or wintering here. While most of the ponds are frozen in winter and therefore the site has lower importance for wintering waterfowl, its significance as a stopover point is hard to overestimate, as the migratory bird fauna here is reach and diverse. The species observed here include globally threatened White-headed Duck, Marbled Teal, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Northern Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Turtle Dove, Pallid Harrier, and others, as well as threatened at National level Greylag Goose, Kentish Plover, White-tailed Lapwing, Savii’s Warbler, and others. The area is the only known breeding place in Armenia for White-headed Duck, White-tailed Lapwing, and Kentish Plover.
The fish-ponds are divided between several private owners, the semi-desert areas are mostly owned by surrounding communities.
The farm is fed by two major sources of water: canal that brings water from Araks River and artesian wells. The vegetation cover differs in various areas: while the wetlands are dominated by Fragmites, Typha, and Carex, the semi-desert areas host Chenopodium, Lepidium, Salsola, Alhagi, and Zygophyllum. One of the beautiful plants here is Tamarix, which alternates the wetlands vegetation. Number of ponds here are not used and were transferred into seasonal brackish wetlands.
The area is one of the centers of extensive farming of various species from Carp family and a Catfish. The semi-desert areas are usually not in use, although some nomadic grazing occurs here. Some part of this area was allocated for public seasonal hunting.
Armash area has a primary objective as a fish-farm. It potentially creates a conflict between the farm management purposes and conservation priorities, as from one side the fish-eating species are influencing the yield, and from another side the intensive production requires less mosaic structure of the ponds, which can decrease the shoreline vegetation and birds’ habitats.
From another side Armash fish-farm is located at the heart of Armenian horticulture – Ararat Plain, which means that all the surrounding orchards and gardens are using fertilizers, which can be washed by storm-water runoff to Armash causing eutrophication, and pesticides, which find the same path to the place causing pollution and poisoning.
Another threat comes from the hunters. While part of the area is a recognized birdwatching site with restricted hunting; however the surrounding wetland areas owned by other entrepreneurs are still serve as hunting zone. Beside direct persecution, the hunting here potentially causes lead pollution from bullets, which is known threat for huge variety of waterbirds.
The last another major threat potentially comes from the gold mine’s wastewater treatment pool, which is located upstream to Armash, and can poison the area by heavy metals’ remains in the wastewater.