Maharashtra govt cracks down on illegal sale of catfish, seize 30 tonnes in 10 days

Sanjana Bhalerao
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The central government had banned breeding, transportation and sale of the invasive species in 2000. (Representational/Source: Pixabay)

The state fisheries department has launched a crackdown on Thai catfish (Magur) breeding and has confiscated and buried 30 tonnes of Magur — 15 tonnes in Mumbai, 8 tonnes at Indapur near Pune, and 7 tonnes in Bhiwandi — in the last 10 days.

A carnivorous-freshwater fish, Magur feeds on water organisms that reportedly has an adverse impact on indigenous biodiversity and reduces food base for water birds. Known to grow up to 3-5 feet long, the species is also suspected to cause diseases like Argulosis, commonly known as fish lice.

The central government had banned breeding, transportation and sale of the invasive species in 2000. However, as the species grows to a good size, when compared to their smaller indigenous counterparts, farmers have found it more lucrative and reared them on the sly.

“We have found that some people were breeding the species in their ponds and illegally selling them. We are immediately destroying all Magur catch and also urging people to report if they spot breeding of these species,” fisheries commissioner Rajiv Jadhav said.

The state government is also planning to launch an awareness campaign in the local fish markets, to educate consumers on its adverse impact on ecology and health.

In Maharashtra, traditional fishermen from villages around Ujjani Dam, near Indapur, Shirur and Daund, had registered a complaint with the state fisheries department on the breeding of Thai Magur.

“It is not just Magur which is an issue. There are many such invasive species that are destroying the ecosystem but are readily available in the market. These species are called aquatic invasive species and the government should come up with a policy regarding its breeding and sale in the Indian market,” K V Akhilesh of Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute said.