Disease hits Iraq’s fisheries

For the fourth time since 2018, a fish kill has occurred in Babylon, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of tonnes of fish due to a return outbreak of the “Koi Herpes 3” virus.

A number of fish breeders in the Musayyib district, north of the Babil Governorate reported on the incident, stressing that the Ministry of Agriculture has not found a solution to this problem that threatens fisheries, adding that they may be forced to leave this profession and search for another source of income if the problem persists.

Locals have expressed fears of buying fish as they could have died as a result of being infected by the virus. The head of the Iraqi Association of Fish Producers, Iyad Al-Talbi, said: “The matter is repeatedly threatening the security of the fish sector and relevant authorities are not finding the solutions to this disaster.” He pointed out that “before this disaster, Iraq had reached self-sufficiency with regard to fish, as the amount of production reached one million tons annually, but because of this issue this number has almost halved, which raised the prices of fish in the market.” Local Babylon fish breeder, Muhammad Al-Janabi said, “The only people affected by the death of these fish are regular citizens as well as our economy. If this persists, the government will be forced to increase fish imports.”

A veterinary specialist, Dr. Ahmed Al-Tamimi explained that “the phenomenon of fish dying in this way risks creating an environmental and health catastrophe, especially since the (Coei Herpes) virus that infects fish can develop and turn into a virus that infects humans, as what we saw with the Coronavirus.” Al-Tamimi called on the government, through the ministries of health and agriculture, to “move quickly to find the necessary vaccine for this virus,” adding, “even fish that did not show signs of infection and that the consumer eats may be carriers of the virus.”

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