VISAKHAPATNAM/ELURU : In utter disregard to the health of fish food lovers and people living in surrounding areas of fish tanks, aqua farmers are feeding animal waste from abattoirs to a variety of carnivorous fish being bred in the fish tanks in the districts of Krishna, East Godavari and West Godavari.
While feeding of animal waste to the fish poses the threat of spread of epidemics, officials are unable to curb the practice in the absence of specific rules against it. Aquaculture is one of the major occupations in the districts of Krishna, East and West Godavari where fish are bred in tanks spread over 3.5 lakh acres, including two lakh acre in West Godavari alone.
According to the fisheries department, there are 159 species of fish in Andhra Pradesh. Out of this, 53 species are carnivorous, 26 are herbivorous and 81 omnivorous. Fish farmers largely cultivate herbivorous species like Rohu and Katla and omnivorous species like fungus. However, there is a small community of farmers who breed herbivorous fish, including the banned catfish.
Sources said that for speedy recovery of their investments, some farmers resort to feeding animal waste from abattoirs to the species of fungus and catfish. “Catfish is bred in about 500-600 acres in West Godavari alone besides fungus fish breeding in about 20,000 acres. However, the feeding of animal waste is rampant in about 1,600 acres, including catfish breeding in 500-600 acres. The remaining tanks have fungus fish which too gives good profits for farmers who resort to feeding of animal waste to fish,” said a farmer, who breeds catfish, on condition of anonymity.
As a result of feeding animal waste from abattoirs, the fish which takes about 10-12 months for complete growth and weighs around 1-5 kg, is able to gain the necessary weight within 8-10 months.
However, it also leads to spread of epidemics in the area. “These fish destroy the surrounding environs and trigger diseases like malaria, diarrhoea, cholera and skin diseases. Fortunately, we have not seen any serious epidemic spreading in the region in the recent past,” said A Srinivas, a fish scientist and aquaculture expert from Eluru. The practice of feeding animal waste to the fish is more in the areas adjacent to Kolleru lake, one of the largest freshwater lakes in India.
Speaking to TNIE, West Godavari district fisheries development officer (FDO) P Jeevan said that the department has registered 20 cases against catfish cultivation since the ban was imposed in 2002. During last year, the officials registered two cases and seized the catfish but in vain. As there is no ban on breeding the fungus fish, the officials are unable to initiate any action against farmers who are feeding animal waste to these fish. Sources said that some farmers export the catfish under the guise of fungus fish to West Bengal, Bangalore, Odisha, Bihar and Hyderabad for sale.