BHUBANESWAR:Odias have a thing for “Sukhua” (dry fish) but they need to watch what they are eating - the good old sun-dried fish or the formalin-dried fish? If the latest circular issued by Directorate of Fisheries is any indication, boat-owners as well as dry-fish makers are increasingly using formalin to dry and preserve the catch despite warnings to this effect in the past.
What is worrying, the chemical is being used to dry fish in the boats itself so that the process is speeded up and decaying of dead fish is arrested. Formalin, or formaldehyde as it is known, minimises the activity of oxygen which causes rotting. After receiving complaints from several quarters, Directorate of Fisheries has issued a circular to District Fisheries Officers stating that use of such preservative must be prevented and action taken against the offenders since formalin is harmful for human consumption as it causes diarrhoea and other problems. Its use in the long run can caused serious ailments too.
Traditionally, fish is dried, salted and even smoked to be preserved. Dry fish makers have also been using solar dryers to expedite the process. “However, several boat-owners and dry-fish makers are taking to formalin to dry the fish in the vessels itself which is hazardous,” said Kameswar Narayan Praharaj, president Odisha Fish Producers Federation. The boat and trawler owners have been adding bamboo-made shelves in the vessels to dry fish after the catch which helps save time and the fish is market-ready for the dry fish makers.
However, the fish producers are not happy with the circular of Fisheries and animal Resources Development Department saying it is faulty. They say trawlers and boat-owners are mandated with catching fish but are not entitled to dry them on board.
“Fisheries Department must declare the process illegal and bring out a notification to this effect so that it can be enforced,” said Gopal Chandra Raj, secretary of Balasore Trawler Owners Association, Balaramgadi. The producers allege that marine police, currently, overlooks carrying of such substances in the boats.
The health hazards apart, Praharaj said, the formalin-used dry fish is perishable which is why sellers try to dispose it off at the earliest. Due to extensive use of the preservative, the fish is reduced to a powder form in about two weeks.