Awareness campaign for Kerala's fish farmers on the cards as EU tightens screws

The Fisheries Department will soon launch an awareness campaign among the state’s fish farmers to make them aware of the ill effects of using antibiotics for better yield.

Published: 24th December 2017 01:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th December 2017 10:04 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOLLAM: The Fisheries Department will soon launch an awareness campaign among the state’s fish farmers to make them aware of the ill effects of using antibiotics for better yield and the need to stick to better management practices.The move is in line with the directives of the Union Agriculture Ministry which had asked various regulatory agencies at the Central and states to discuss and resolve the issue related to the problem of the use of antibiotics in aquaculture, particularly in shrimp farms and hatcheries.

 The ministry’s directive came in the wake of the European Union’s (EU) decision to subject the country’s marine exports to stringent tests after traces of antibiotics were detected in them. “Yes, the state government had directed the Fisheries Department to initiate necessary action to address the issue of the presence of antibiotics in seafood meant for export,” said a Fisheries Department officer. “As far as we know, the ministry’s directive came after the EU rejected shrimp consignments from Vishakhapatnam and Nellore after traces of antibiotics like nitrofuran and chloramphenicol were detected,” he said.

Considering the issue’s seriousness, Devendra Chaudhry, Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries (DADF) under the Ministry of Agriculture, had convened a meeting of the various stakeholders - including representatives of coastal states, National Fisheries Development Board, Export Inspection Council, Marine Products Export Development Authority, Seafood Exporters’ Association of India, All India Shrimp Hatcheries’ Association, Prawn Farmers’ Federations and others - in New Delhi recently, which concurred the EU’s move indeed had a major fallout.

The meeting which entrusted the DADF with the task of monitoring the issue also decided to approach regulatory bodies like the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation and the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (Fssai) to work out ‘a workable regulatory mechanism within the available legal provisions to ensure effective enforcement, including penal action, against the violators’.Meanwhile, Sahadevan, Joint Director, Fisheries, who represented the state at the meeting, told Express the fish farmers alone cannot be blamed for the presence of antibiotics in shrimp and prawn exports. According to him, factors ranging from water contamination to sprinkling of small dosage of antibiotics for the preservation of fish varieties are a major reason.

“What alarms the ministry is the EU is tightening its inspection norms. Earlier, it had increased the frequency of inspections from 10-50 per cent. Hence, we have decided to kick-start an awareness campaign among fish farmers, processors and other stakeholders,” said Sahadevan.He said it has been decided to conduct surprise raids at hatcheries and processing centres and examine 10 random samples from them. Also, the Deputy Director of Fisheries of respective coastal districts has been directed to ensure the use of antibiotics in aquaculture is checked effectively.

As per the Ministry of Agriculture statistics, India exported a total of 11, 34,948 MT seafood in 2016-17 as against the 9, 45,892 MT in the year-ago period.  It also shed light on the growing  demand in the EU  for Indian marine products which grew substantially during this period while the US and South East Asia continued to be the major importers. The overall export of shrimp alone was pegged at 4, 34,484 MT during 2016-17. The US was the largest import market for frozen shrimp (1, 65,827 MT), followed by the EU (77,178 MT), South East Asia (1, 05,763 MT), Japan (31,284 MT), West Asia (19,554MT), China (7818MT) and other countries (27,063 MT).


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