Study finds metal pollution in aquaculture farms

Threat of anti-microbial resistance looms large with the profligate use of antibiotics and insecticides for cultivation.

Updated - January 15, 2021 05:33 pm IST

Published - January 15, 2021 05:31 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Image with representational purpose only.

Image with representational purpose only.

A study of aquaculture farms across 10 States, which account for the bulk of India’s production, has found “hazardous” levels of metals such as lead and cadmium in all of them. Profligate use of antibiotics and insecticides for cultivation and the threat of anti-microbial resistance have contributed making aquaculture a “ticking time bomb,” according to the authors of the study commissioned by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) and All Creatures Great and Small (ACGS).

FIAPO and ACGS studied about 250 fish and shrimp farms across the nine highest producing States and one Union Territory. This included fresh and brackish water farms in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Gujarat, West Bengal and 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.

All of the fish and shrimp farms had toxic levels of lead and cadmium, and all the shrimp farms that the surveyors visited were releasing this toxic waste water directly into the nearby canals or estuaries. None of the fish farms had outlets for this water because of which dirty water was being recirculated, posing a grave threat to fish and human health. The unhygienic conditions led to frequent disease outbreaks at half the farms visited, and which caused significant commercial losses. “At several instances, farmers were found to be selling these diseased fish and shrimps at the local market to minimise their losses. 65% of the fish farms had poor dissolved oxygen levels, which means fish were struggling to survive with high mortality rates. Banned fish species like Red-bellied Pirrahna and Catfish are farmed intensively in several states accompanied by heavy antibiotic use,” the authors note in their report.

Varda Mehrotra, executive director of FIAPO said in a statement, “How we see fishes is extremely problematic. There needs to be a central and state level regulatory framework for freshwater & brackish water aquaculture, and the Aquaculture Authority needs to be empowered to work directly with Animal Welfare Board of India and the Union environment ministry to strictly enforce aquaculture specific laws. Fishes deserve the same level of legal protection as other animals. And, considering the amount of antibiotics used and the water quality, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India should be empowered to not just regulate the end product, but the conditions in which the fishes are grown.”

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