Rearing of African catfish, banned 14 years ago, is flourishing in Bangalore and other parts of Karnataka.
Also called maroof and aane meenu, the catfish is sold openly and served at eateries across the state. The fish feeds on garbage, mainly rotting cattle and chicken meat waste salvaged from the city’s butchers.
The species was banned after it was found to cause a decrease in the number of native fish from water bodies. Rearing the fish near airports also attracts birds, posing a danger to flights.
The African catfish is referred to as Clarias Garipeneus in scientific literature. It can devour a variety of plant and aquatic life, thanks to its wide mouth. It can survive in sewers and highly-contaminated water.
When this Express reporter visited an illegal fish farm at Matnalli on the outskirts of Bangalore, the man in charge offered to sell him larvae smuggled in from Bangladesh. He said officials could be bribed into not acting against the farms.
People living in the area complained about pollution caused by the burning of rubber and plastic waste. The illegal farmers heat up the feed for the catfish using rubber and plastic as fuel. If the fish contains excess chromium or mercury, it can cause cancer in the long run, according to Dr Giridhar R Babu, associate professor, Public Health Foundation of India.
Ban Since 2000
The Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (Fisheries Division) banned the rearing of catfish in 2000 under the Environment Protection Act.