INDIA - Illegal farms cultivating the exotic catfish variety Magar, Clarias gariepinus , are thriving in the eastern border villages of Palakkad district despite strict orders from the government and Kerala High Court to completely destroy the existing stock of the species which poses threat to local fish varieties and severe contamination of water sources.
Rearing of the carnivorous catfish, known locally as African Mushi, is going on in over 1,000 acres in the Kozhinjampara, Gopalapuram, Chittur, Thathamangalam, Athicode, Vannamada, and Eruthempathi areas, largely because of the lackadaisical attitude of district administration, the Police and Fisheries department, reports TheHindu.
Documents accessed under the Right to Information Act (RTI) from the Kozhinjampara grama panchayat prove that 14 major farms, against which the local body issued stop memos sometime back, are still functioning.
Despite the ban, live fish is available to buyers in the fish markets of Palakkad.
Health Inspector Roy Wilfred, who brought the matter to the notice of authorities, says the farms using chicken waste as the major feed are causing irreparable damage to local environment and water sources.
As per the assessment of the fisheries and aquaculture department of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), this alien, carnivorous, and predatory species is a threat to native fish varieties.
The national committee constituted under the chairmanship of the Joint Secretary (Fisheries), Government of India, to oversee and regulate the introduction of exotic aquatic organisms in Indian waters, at its first meeting on December 19, 1997, had directed State governments and Union Territories to take immediate steps to destroy the existing stocks of exotic Magar and big head fish which had been introduced without official sanction in the country.
The breeding of African catfish was banned in the country following an order by the Kerala High Court in 2000. However, farms in Palakkad are getting hatchlings of the banned fish from Coimbatore and Tiruchirapalli.
“Only united action by different government departments can end the practice. The farms must be stopped at any cost,” says P.S. Panicker, environmentalist.
TheFishSite News Desk