Plenty of fish in the sea, but polluted

Environment Health Uncategorized

Heavy metal bioaccumulation has been found in marine fish samples from the Visakhapatnam fishing harbour and the Bheemili area.

If you are an avid fish eater from Visakhapatnam, you need to be more cautious about your health.

Experts have said that consumption of marine fish from Visakhapatnam is hazardous to one’s health, as heavy metal contamination has been discovered on multiple instances.

An April 2021 ScienceDirect report stated that concentration of 23 metals was examined in nine fish species. Heavy metals such as chromium, aluminum, manganese, and arsenic were found in excess of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) permitted limits.

The species represent varied habitats, including primary feeder, tertiary feeder, and bottom feeder, in Visakhapatnam’s fresh and marine waters. Coastal water fish had the largest densities, whereas freshwater fish had the lowest.

Earlier ScienceDirect report of August 2020 found bioaccumulation of heavy metals such as Zinc, Lead, Cadmium, Carbon monoxide, Copper, Lead, and Mercury in fish. Various organs (eye, gill, stomach, gonad, liver, skin, and muscle) of three species viz. Labeo rohita, Pangasius hypophthalmus, and Katsuwonus pelamis were studied. 

But the metal concentrations in the investigated fish species fell below the FAO, WHO, MAFF, and EC maximum permissible limit (MPL) for human consumption.

A J Salman Raju, Head of Environmental Science Department at Andhra University said that many reports reveal high metal contamination in the seafood. “Vizag harbor receives 20 different varieties of fish every day. Heavy metal contamination testing on the muscle region is critical. If heavy metal contamination in edible fish grows, we can determine the heavy metal’s position in the tissues. We may be exposed to too many heavy metals, such as chromium and arsenic if we ingest such fish, which can lead to lung and respiratory difficulties.”

He added that copper, chromium, mercury, and arsenic are the most common and harmful heavy metal contaminants discovered in fish. It has an impact on children’s growth and causes skin problems.

B. Himani, an Andhra University environmental activist explained that steel factories contribute significantly to pollution in this area. “Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), Hindustan Shipyard Limited, National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd (NTPC), as well as pharmaceutical companies, contribute significantly to pollution. If you look at the air quality index (AQI) for Visakhapatnam, you’ll see that it’s generally over 100.”

The AQI has constantly been high in Vizag since 2005. “It is quite hazardous to our health to breathe in such air,” Himani said.

She further added that the steel plant and pharmaceuticals contribute a lot to air pollution and it is further carried through the air to port areas. It is then absorbed by the sea. “This is one of the primary causes of heavy metal contamination in marine species. This is why you mostly find dead fish near the beach.”

Visakhapatnam’s  AQI is currently at 157, which is indicated as unhealthy. The AQI during this month stayed above 100 as it reported 171.75 on March 10, 2022, 190.71 on March 15, 2022, and 112 on March 20, 2022.

Prof. Krishna Raj, a climate expert, said that it’s not just the pollution carried by industries but also the people who work along the coastline and use the ocean as a dump yard. “All the industries that are close to coastal areas uses the ocean to dump all the pollutants released by them. There is no monitoring by the state control board to keep the marine BOD levels stable.”

Pollution carried by the water bodies has an impact on the fish population. This has an indirect impact on the fisherman’s business. They need to travel farther into the water to fish, which costs them more than usual.

Laxman, a fisherman from Bheemili said, “I go fishing early in the morning, around 3 a.m. along the shore at Bheemili beach. The fish come along the coast early in the morning, making it easier for us to capture them. We don’t get lucky every day, but we do get enough fish on occasions.” 

When he fishes along the coast, he occasionally catches dead fish in the nets. “We typically sell all of the fish, whether they are dead or alive. As we make money on our search,” he added.

The fishermen might sell dead fish to make money as they have to pay for their rented boats as well. Amouru, a fisherman at Visakhapatnam Harbour stated, “We always go fishing in our rented boat. We travel a particular distance to fish. We normally rent the boat for a few days to explore the ocean. We occasionally get lucky, and if we catch enough fish, we return to the shore immediately. But every time we go on our rented boats, we spend more money. When we don’t get any fish in our nets on some days, it’s a significant loss for us.”

However, they can avoid dead fish if they fish quite far from the shore. “We normally discover plenty of different kinds of fish in the ocean, and occasionally we even catch some rare fish as we pick them up, preserve them in pots, and sell them in pet stores. We never find dead fish in the sea. Dead fish are captured when we fish by the shore,” Amouru said.

According to a Fisher and Hunter study, eating dead fish is quite harmful, especially in survival situations. Bacteria, parasites, and viruses found in dead fish may make you very sick and perhaps kill you. The only chance for a fish to be safe is if it had just been killed by a predator, but there are still major hazards. The fish may have died from impurities in the water if the water had not been clean and stagnant. It also adds that if the water is contaminated by pollution, there would most likely be more than one dead fish on the river’s banks. 

The impact of bioaccumulation, air pollution and dead fish is significant considering the increase in breeding and sale of fish within the state as well as out of the state.

The Visakhapatnam Department of Fisheries data stated that the breeding of marine fish has shown a continuous increase from 2014 to 2017. The breeding grew from 85,620 tonnes in the financial year 2014 – 15, to 1,06,704 tonnes in 2017.

Marine Fish Production in Visakhapatnam from 2009-10 to 2017-18(AE).

The Andhra Pradesh government’s Department of Fisheries’ report showed that marine fish breeding in the state has increased from 5.2 lakh tonnes in FY 2015-16 to 5.64 lakh tonnes in 2019-20. 

Marine Fish Production in Andhra Pradesh from 2015-16 to 2019-20.

Visakhapatnam’s marine fish is not only marketed in the city but is also exported to other states such as Karnataka. Subramanya. N, Assistant Director of Fisheries, Karnataka, said that fish is imported from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. “For instance, if we take Andhra Pradesh [sic], the freshwater fish is imported from Vijayawada, Kakinada, and Rajahmundry. The marine water fish are imported from Visakhapatnam.”