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

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 about250 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 Bihar, the investigation was carried out in the districts of East Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Begusarai and Patna covering 20 fish farms. 100% of the fish farms had toxic levels of lead and cadmium,scoring extremely poor on the public health hazard scale (0.25/1).

Additionally, 100% of the fish farms had no outlets, this means dirty water is recirculated posing a grave threat to fish and human health. Several farmers admitted massive losses due to prevalent diseases and massive floods every year.All the fish farms lacked basic maintenance and were littered, and open defecation is a regular practice near the fish farms. All the fish farms had poor dissolved oxygen levels, which means fish were struggling to survive with high mortality rates.

Following the Kolkata model, Patna recently added a sewage-fed fishery. Banned fish species like Mangur catfish was widely farmed accompanied by indiscriminate use of antibiotics, insecticides and pesticides.

Such haphazard management practices also invite the risk of anti-microbial resistance. AMR is the next health catastrophe waiting to be unleashed. 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.

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