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    Fish farms in Andhra Pradesh are laden with antibiotics, insecticides and heavy metals, finds FIAPO latest investigation report

    Published on January 22, 2021

    Vijayawada: A new investigation by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) and All Creatures Great and Small (ACGS) brings to light a shockingly awful state of aquaculture in India. It was found that 100% of the fish and shrimp farms have hazardous levels of lead and cadmium. With careless use of antibiotics and insecticides, uncontrollable disease outbreaks, no attention to fish welfare, and a looming threat of AMR, aquaculture is a ticking time bomb.

    Varda Mehrotra, Executive Director of FIAPO says, We have found shocking conditions in this growing sector. Fish are kept in cramped, filthy enclosures, with no waste management. They are cut up alive. The contaminated water from these fish farms is released into local water bodies and estuaries that spread the parasites further, causing harm to the fish population as well as humans.”

    FIAPO and ACGS investigated about 250 fish and shrimp farms across the 10 highest producing states in India. This covers fresh and brackish water farms in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Gujarat, West Bengal, Orissa and freshwater farms in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, and Assam. The objective of the study was to assess the condition of fish and shrimp farms in India on animal welfare, public health, and environmental hazard standards.

    In Andhra Pradesh, the investigation was carried out in the districts of West Godavari, Krishna, Guntur and Visakhapatnam covering 20 freshwater fish farms and 21 shrimp farms. 100% of the fish farms had toxic levels of lead and cadmium. Additionally, these farms had no outlets, this means dirty water is recirculated posing a grave threat to fish and human health.

    More than 50% of the fish farms had poor dissolved oxygen levels, which means fish were struggling to survive with high mortality rates. Several shrimp farms practiced eyestalk ablation – a practice of slicing or cutting off one or both eyes of a female shrimp in order to stimulate her to develop mature ovaries and spawn.

    Many shrimp farms had outbreaks of Vibriosis, Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS), Enterocytozoon hepatopenaei (EHP), and White Gut Disease. Farmers resorted to selling diseased shrimps at the local market for immediate disposal. In over 80% of the fish farms, there were frequent outbreaks of red spot disease and fish lice. Farmers were found to indiscriminately use antibiotics and insecticides.

    Such haphazard management practices also invite the risk of anti-microbial resistance. AMR is the next health catastrophe waiting to be unleashed, and it might be more disastrous than COVID. Recently, a group of fisheries scientists called for greater awareness about Anti-microbial resistance (AMR) addressing the need to curb the transmission of AMR bacteria to humans from fish and shrimps.

    The unhygienic conditions of meat markets also give rise to events of pandemics, malaria, typhoid, and jaundice. Anjali Gopalan, Managing Trustee, All Creatures Great and Small says “We do not seem to align our considerations with our lifestyles and actions, the brunt of which is faced by aquatic life because they exist away from human civilisation. The lack of marine sentience and sensitivity of the public as well as industries to the health of fish is revealed when we learn about the administrative and political indolence in the country. Consequently, when this is clearly a public health concern we must start today in mobilising resources to improve the conditions to avoid an aquaculture disaster.”

    “Aquaculture is factory farming of fishes, and it constitutes the same systemic problems encountered in the factory farms of land animals: crowding, stress, disease, pain, and death. If you don’t want to support that, then don’t buy fish,” says Dr. Jonathan Balcombe, scientist, speaker & advisor at FIAPO.