Study flags appalling conditions at fish farms across the

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country, including Bihar Patna, Jan 31 (PTI) Consumers of fish and shrimps across the country could be staring at a health hazard on account of appalling standards of hygiene and reckless use of chemicals at farms where these are reared, says a study.

Jointly conducted by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organization (FIAPO) and the All Creatures Great and Small (ACGS), the study is based upon investigation of 250 farms across 10 of the highest fish-producing states.

States like Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Assam were surveyed for freshwater fish while Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Puducherry were covered for both fresh water and seawater varieties.

'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', Verda Mehrotra, Executive Director of FIAPO, said in a release.

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

Additionally, cent per cent of the fish farms had no outlets, which implied dirty water being re-circulated 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.

Indiscriminate use of antibiotics, insecticides and pesticides was also rampant, she said.

'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', she added.

The unhygienic conditions of meat markets also give rise to events of pandemics, malaria, typhoid, and jaundice, according to Anjali Gopalan, Managing Trustee of ACGS '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 by mobilising resources to improve the conditions to avoid an aquaculture disaster', she added.

'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, warned Dr Jonathan Balcombe, scientist, speaker and advisor at FIAPO. PTI NAC RG RG