An African catfish, known as Thai Magur fish despite a ban throughout the country, is being cultured in the region. And Chandigarh has become one of the prominent wholesale markets in the region.
The fish, Clarias Garipinus, banned by fisheries division of Union Ministry of Agriculture way back in 1997, poses not only danger to the prominent indigenous fish varieties but also have adverse affect on health of those consuming this variety of fish. Experts feel that this variety may cause serious diseases and even cancer.
Highly carnivorous, this fish is being cultured in mainly village ponds. Generally these ponds are given on contract by the village panchayets and the contractor finds the farming of this fish very easy. These culture fast in polluted ponds and can survive on toxic waste discharged in the water body. It also consumes the dead animals and this is the only variety, which can survive in oxygen-deficient water.
It is highly profitable also. Any indigenous variety of fish normally weighs about 300 gms after one year but Thai Magus may grow upto 800 -1000 gms in same period, allowing farmers to take three to four crops per year. This, in the case of native fish, is just one or two crops a year. Besides, the culturing catfish doesn’t require pond preparation, water exchange or special feeding.
Thai Magur eats up any other variety of fish and even small fishes of the same variety. At some places, these fishes are been fed with the intestines of the chicken for a faster growth.
Thai Magur may crawl and can survive in muddy water also. Normally a very small quantity of water is required for the survival of the fish and therefore traders sell it alive keeping it in quantity of water that only touches its body.
The wholesale fish merchants in Wholesale Fish Market in sector 26 of Chandigarh say that farmers from Mullanpur and surrounding areas in Punjab and Barwala belt in Haryana were supplying this fish to the fish market. On an
average about 25 to 30 quintal Thai Magur was coming in the fish market. Ludhiana and Moga were other prominent fish markets where this variety was available easily.
Though some of these merchants claim that they were selling desi Magur, which was not banned in the country but fish expert say that desi Magur known as Clarias Betrachus was a scarce variety.
According to the laws, any farmer involved in culture of thai Magur was liable to pay the fine of Rs. 10000 and all these fishes would be destroyed by the fisheries department.
Last year, two huge consignments of Thai Magur were confiscated at Zirakpur and other at Shambhu and efforts were being made to check the farming of this variety of fish, said a Punjab fisheries department official, who did not want to be named. He added that the state fisheries department was facing the problems pertaining to infrastructure.
The only effective way was to check the farming of this fish was to check the transit of seed of this fish from Kolkatta to this part of the country, he said. No fish farm in this area was producing seed of this fish, the official added.
R K Sangwan, Director, Fisheries Department, Haryana admitted that he was in knowledge of Thai Magur being cultivated in some pockets of the state. The department officials were attempting to check it. However, he denied that human consumption of this variety of fish had any adverse affect on health.