Arrival of pacu sends ripples of fear among consumers of fish

Experts allay apprehension, say this variety is edible though it looks like piranha

Updated - March 09, 2020 07:48 am IST

Published - March 08, 2020 08:54 pm IST - Tiruchi

A view of the Puthur fish market in Tiruchi.

A view of the Puthur fish market in Tiruchi.

Arrival of hitherto unknown pacu variety fish in Puthur Market has caused consternation among a section of customers.

Residents in Thillai Nagar and surrounding areas are uncertain about edibility of the red-bellied fish citing its similarity in appearance to piranha, a carnivorous variety. Experts, on the other hand, said the pacu variety fish has been approved for consumption by the government.

N. Jamaluddin, former member, State Consumer Protection Council was apprehensive that the customers were inclined to purchasing the fish that appeared similar to pomfret and due to cheaper cost. “The buyers are unaware that the fish netted in large quantities in West Bengal is cultured in huge scale in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana”, Mr. Jamalludin said. Senior officials of Fisheries Department have been sounded of the sale of this variety in Tiruchi, he said.

S. Bharathi of Thillai Nagar said that she had come across videos alerting consumers about the harmful nature of the fish. “The videos depicted the similarity of the teeth of the pacu fish with that of piranha, and also warned that consumption of the fish will lead to cancer. I have been concerned about it and have also insisted that my family members do not purchase it,” she said.

Fishermen at the market said that the fish was popular as it tasted similar to pomfret. “Pomfret costs at least ₹ 600-700 per kilogram, which is expensive for a middle-class family. Most people prefer pacu as it is good both for frying and for making curries,” said a vendor at the Puthur market. A load of pacu comes from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana for the weekends, he added.

Allaying the apprehensions, S. Felix, Vice-Chancellor, Tamil Nadu Fisheries University said that the pacu fish was good to consume. “In many parts of the north, and even in Andhra Pradesh, pacu is being reared with carp seeds, popular food for fish. They are not carnivorous fish,” he said.

Dr. Felix said that a research conducted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research-National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources (ICAR-NBFGR) certified its edibility. “The feasibility for creating special hatcheries for rearing this kind of fish is being explored,” he said.

“For that matter, Tilapia, better known in Tamil Nadu as 'jalebi meen,' is also a foreign species. There are still reared and consumed in large quantities. The fear about pacu fish is only because of similarity in appearance to piranha, which is indeed dangerous,” he explained.

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