NSPCA investigates cruelty to fish at Karoo Catch fish farm
The NSPCA is investigating a case of severe cruelty to fish after they recently rescued catfish found in ‘putrid and inhumane living conditions’ at the Karoo Catch aquaculture fish farm in GraaffReinet.
NSPCA spokesperson, Keshvi Nair, says they conducted a follow-up inspection at Karoo Catch after having inspected it earlier this year and found the farm abandoned with only the security guard on the premises.
Further investigation by the NSPCA revealed live fish eating one another as they had not been fed and maggots burrowing into the rotting flesh of fish that had already died. The dried-up carcasses and skeletal remains of other fish were found scattered across the farm.
According to Nair, the number of surviving fish remained undetermined at the time as the tanks were too filthy to see how many there were. She says the NSPCA then worked through several large tunnel houses filled with fish tanks and rescued a large number of fish suffering as a result of severe cruelty.
“Although the aquaculture sector markets itself as a remedy for the condition of our overfished oceans, there is a significant catch – aquaculture facilities, just like the one the NSPCA is currently investigating, subject millions of farmed fish to rampant cruelty,” says Nair. “Had the NSPCA not taken the initiative to conduct an inspection and urgently intervene, all the fish at the facility would have faced a slow and torturous death.”
Nair added that the plight of fish often goes unseen and unheard because they are barely recognised as the sentient beings that they are. Instead, they are seen as products, grown for the sole purpose of becoming food.
Karoo Catch responds
Responding to Algoa FM’s reporting on the NSPCA’s allegations Leslie Ter Morshuizen, founder of Karoo Catch, explained that the farm has been struggling since the end of 2020 when the Covid-19 lockdown, combined with cash flow challenges, eventually led to the decision to mothball the farm. “Between May and July many social organisations were invited to collect fish from the farm at no cost for their outreach programs. Karoo Catch staff were also invited to take fish home with them at no cost. By the end of July almost all the fish on the farm had been harvested and given away. During the first week of August a team of casual labourers, supervised by one of the directors, harvested the remaining fish and euthanised them.”
Ter Morshuizen said they were aware that small numbers of unharvestable fish remained in the tunnels but switched off the power as the low density of catfish did not require water circulation. Ter Morshuizen further explained that it is natural for catfish to eat one another as they are carnivores. They also have a high mortality rate and therefore, the sight of dead fish would not only be normal but expected. According to Algoa FM’s reporter, Doreen Loubser, Karoo Catch directors refuted the suggestion that not feeding catfish is cruel, as catfish aestivate, meaning they go into a state of low energy usage and survive months, even years, under these conditions in nature.
Speaking to Graaff-Reinet Advertiser Nair confirmed that the NSPCA’s investigation is still underway and that action will be taken for the cruelty and abuse that the fish were subjected to as the investigation unfolds. She undertook to give more insight as soon as she has heard from their investigation unit. Regarding the fate of the fish found by the NSPCA Nair said that many had to be euthanised because of their condition. Graaff-Reinet Advertiser requested further comment from Ter Morshuizen and will publish it as soon as it is received.