African Catfish (Clarias gariepinus)
African Catfish (Clarias gariepinus)

In Bangladesh, African Catfish (Clarias gariepinus) was imported in 1989 from Thailand by the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock (MOFL), Bangladesh for profitable aquaculture. But the entire hypothesis got practically useless in the contest of Bangladesh within a few years. In the primary experimental period, the scientists acclaimed the species as a profitable species. But when culture of African Catfish came to meet rural extension level, it was found that African Catfishes were carnivores to their own species from the early sac fry stage. In early 90s, under the supervision of the Government, many researches were conducted in Bangladesh to solve this problem. But no fruitful result was come out. Culture of African Catfish, then was practisiced all over the Bangladesh and it was observed that the fish farmers faced a lot of problems in culturing this ferocious species in natural water body.

The problems of culturing African Catfish was identified and tried to sort out by FRI, Bangladesh. But no further improvement was observed in this case and the species was tending to be rejected for aquaculture on the contest of Bangladesh. On the basis of the reports, submitted by Scientists, Researchers, District Fisheries Officers (DFO) & the society concerns from all over the Bangladesh, the importation, carrying, breeding, culture, capture, processing, handling, consumption, marketing, exposing & possession of African Catfish was prohibited from Bangladesh according to the “ Protection and Conservation of Fish Rule (1985)”.

But the plot is different in practical. Still illegal operations of fry production in hatcheries, exportation and culture of African Catfish are moving on intentionally or unconsciously in some parts of Bangladesh. In the Northern part of Bangladesh, the farmers of Natore, Rajshahi, Nawabgong and Bogra some cases are studied where farmers are still practicing monoculture of African Catfish, which pretended as a risk on the aquaculture system of Bangladesh.

Why African Catfish need to be rejected?
The causes of rejecting African Catfish culture are as follows:

  • The fish is very ferocious and predatory to other aquatic animals, ducks or even on human; and cannot be cultured in open water bodies;
  • Its proved threatened to the biodiversity of inland fisheries and lead the rare fish species, snakes, frogs etc to extinction;
  • The species shows cannibalism (takes the fry, eggs, juveniles etc of the same or other species in water) and destroy the fish population;
  • The culture techniques is not yet socially or religiously acceptable in Bangladesh;
  • The practice causes severe environmental pollutions. In most of the cases, farmers can’t hope of proper utilization of the entire tropic levels of the water bodies because of culture. So plankton bloom is an obvious among these ponds;
  • The water of the cultured pond cannot be used for other domestic purposes or to drink because of the presence of flits, pollutants, sewage, animal waste etc.
  • The water body loses its quality and fertility needed for future aquaculture day by day;
  • Controlling bloom using biological methods, sampling, applying polyculture, harvesting etc. was not so easy at this case for the ferociously carnivorous or predatory behavior of African Catfish;
  • The fishes are not likely taken by the consumers from all parts of Bangladesh because of hygiene (the use of sewage or human waste during culture practice) or religious point of views or for the unimpressive colour and appearances of the fish;
  • The fish lost the farmer’s acceptance because of its low market demand;
  • If the species get into natural water bodies during flood or somehow, they destruct the native population of fishes with their habitats.

At present days, low-cost aquaculture, organic aquaculture and region based aquaculture practices are claimed to be suitable for the fisheries sectors of Bangladesh. But culture of African Catfish does not fit to those criteria. Scientists asked to stop culturing African Catfish, as soon as possible, for the sake of biodiversity conservation. The species is not only harmful ecologically but also captures the local markets of the native species and some popular exotic species, which is a straight threat on the aquaculture of Bangladesh. In this situation, we have to make the hatchery operators and fish farmers understood about the negative impacts of culturing African Catfish. Social awareness can be raised against illegal culture of African Catfish on the contest of Bangladesh, through media partners (TV, radio, mobile phones), seminar, symposiums and by using banners, posters, placard etc. We have to ask to the people of all stages, related to fisheries sectors, not to support the people still willing to follow the illegal monoculture practice. Proper monitoring system for the hatcheries should be developed so that illegal seed production and exportation can be prevented. We have to prohibit the hatcheries with legal actions if necessary. Local administration, Upazilla Fishery Office, fisheries graduates, scientists, teachers, student, social workers, fish farmers, fish dealers and people from all sectors of the society, as a body, should take sincere movement to forecast this problem.

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Culture of a prohibited species: African Catfish (Clarias gariepinus)

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Syeda Mushahida Al Noor

Research Student, Department of Fisheries, University of Rajshahi, Rajshahi-6205, Bangladesh. More...

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