ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A bacterial disease caused the recent deaths of a large school of fish with most belonging to farmers in Babylon (Babil) province, the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) said late Sunday.
The statement came after local health authorities conducted laboratory tests to find the cause of the incident, which have fish farmers in the areas worried.
Stories about the deaths have long been conflicting, some locals have said a viral disease caused the episode, and others claimed toxic substances were poured into the rivers and fisheries.
However, the MoA denied all allegations of toxic materials being dumped into the waters, intentional or otherwise, stating that a type of bacterial infection caused the deaths.
After investigators examined samples of dead fish in a laboratory, they saw infections on the gills, MoA said in a statement on Sunday. Bacterial gill disease occurs when certain types of fish live under intensive climate conditions.
In early October, residents of rural areas north of Baghdad and farmers reported witnessing mass deaths of fish. On Thursday, the same occurrence was also reported in Babil province, immediately south of the capital.
MoA laid the blame on the owners of the farms for failing to deal with the outbreak seriously, as “the disease occurs annually and leads to the death of moderate numbers” of fish.
The ministry said it had set up 16 veterinary teams in Babil to investigate the disease further and provide possible treatments for infected plants in an attempt to eradicate the disease.
The veterinarians concluded that the outbreak was caused by climate conditions promoting the spread of infectious diseases: dense populations in a single pond education, non-compliance with environmental and health regulations when creating fish breeding ponds, accumulation of organic waste, low oxygen levels, and a lack of clean water.
The Ministry indicated that it had provided 2,500 kilograms of sterilizing material in veterinary department warehouses since the start of November and will continue its efforts “to remove the dead fish in the Euphrates River near the al-Hindiya dam in Babil province... and will bury them under the supervision” of the local Environmental Protection Department.
The statement stressed that there had been no new cases recorded in the past 48 hours.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany