Iraqis stunned as carp die mys­te­ri­ously by the thou­sands

As losses pile up and liveli­hoods are de­stroyed, fish­er­men search for an­swers

Gulf News - - Gulf / Region -

Iraqi fish farm­ers south of Bagh­dad have been left reel­ing af­ter find­ing thou­sands of dead carp mys­te­ri­ously float­ing in their cages or washed up on the banks of the Euphrates.

Piles of the dead sil­very fish, along with a few car tyres and plas­tic bags, could be seen on Fri­day ly­ing un­der a mas­sive con­crete bridge.

They cov­ered the sur­face of deeper wa­ter nearby, pro­vid­ing rich pick­ings for birds cir­cling above.

And in the fish farms of Saddat Al Hindiyah in Baby­lon prov­ince, about 80 kilo­me­tres south of Bagh­dad, the life­less carp floated to­gether in small clumps.

Farmer Hus­sain Faraj fran­ti­cally scooped dead fish out of his en­clo­sure crate, fear­ing

“Some are say­ing it’s be­cause of a sick­ness, oth­ers say it’s be­cause of chem­i­cals,” said Faraj, his thick black hair stand­ing on end and his eye­brows fur­rowed in worry.

“We’re wait­ing for a so­lu­tion from the gov­ern­ment or a test of the wa­ter - we’re scared the wa­ter will poi­son us in the com­ing days, too.”

Ma­jor wa­ter pol­lu­tion has al­ready kicked up a stink in Iraq once this year, as around 100,000 peo­ple were hos­pi­talised this sum­mer in the south­ern city of Basra.

There, too, farm­ers were shocked to see their fish sud­denly turn up dead in the wa­ter, or washed up on muddy shores, dur­ing the sum­mer cri­sis.

In Saddat Al Hindiyah on Fri­day, dis­tressed farm­ers were pulling fish from their en­clo­sures in nets, and open­ing up gills to check for clues to the shock­ing mass deaths. in a they red plas­tic were poi­soned. ■

“This sick­ness is a mys­tery. It’s un­con­trol­lable,” said Jaa­far Yassin, head of the town’s agri­cul­tural unit. “Around 90 per cent of fish in the farms died,” he told AFP.

The losses have an­gry.

“I own 28 left farm­ers cages and farm 50,000 fish in them. I lost about $80,000 (Dh293,600),” said farmer Hus­sain Al Hus­saini.

Ges­tur­ing wildly and sound­ing pan­icked, his col­league Anas Nuhad counted his own losses. “I farmed 70,000 fish in these ponds - all of them are dead,” said Nuhad, a layer of life­less carp cov­er­ing a pond be­hind him.

“Where am I sup­posed to get fish from now? Ev­ery­one eats fish. So many peo­ple, so many fam­i­lies are liv­ing off this in­dus­try,” he said.

Iraq pro­duces 29,000 tonnes of fish each year, ac­cord­ing to 2016 statis­tics gath­ered by the United Na­tions Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

The coun­try’s na­tional del­i­cacy is mas­goof - flame-grilled carp sea­soned with sauces made from onions, spices and tomato.

Iraq’s health min­istry said Fri­day it had taken sam­ples from the wa­ter and dead fish in Baby­lon prov­ince, but tests had yet to be com­pleted.

“There have not been any ill­nesses caused by eat­ing fish so far,” said spokesman Saif Al Badr. “Our health mon­i­tor­ing teams are care­fully fol­low­ing fish­mon­gers in the lo­cal mar­ket,” he said, adding that any­one found sell­ing the af­fected fish will be held ac­count­able. fish


Men sail past thou­sands of dead fish float­ing on the Euphrates river near the town of Sa­dat Al Hindiya on Fri­day.

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