Chemicals including antibiotics used for producing and preserving them are increasing threat of health hazards.
Stakeholders say there was concern over formalin used illegally to preserve fish, but there were other chemicals that were used and could be dangerous for consumers.
Asked about the export potential of Bangladesh fish in the backdrop of the rising production, an exporter said: “The fish that sells in our local market just cannot be exported to Europe.”
Consumer Association of Bangladesh (CAB) General Secretary Anwar Hossain also expressed concern over use of hazardous chemicals in fish.
“We’re making hue and cry over formalin (use in fish). But nothing is happening against the damage that other poisonous chemicals are causing,” he said.
Bangladesh Agriculture University professor MA Salam said consumption of antibiotic-fed fish causes damage to several human organs including kidney, liver and heart.
A study by Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute found 10 types and 50 categories of chemicals being used in fish farms across the country.
The chemicals include antibiotics, insecticides and growth agents.
Prof Salam said the Department of Fisheries (DoF) responsible for monitoring what was fed to fish was not doing that properly.
Carp, Tilapia and different varieties of catfishes are being bred and produced in farms in the country.
DoF Chief Scientific Officer Nittyaranjan Biswas admitted presence of heavy metals in fish produced in farms.
He, however, said the fish meant for export were tested for heavy metals in them, but those available in local market were not examined as the test was expensive.
Export of shrimp to Europe remained banned for eight months in 2009 for presence of antibiotics.
That prompted Bangladesh to take different measures to improve quality of fish feed and test practices.
The fish imported for Bangladesh market also do not face any test for heavy metals.
According to DoF, Bangladesh procured 50,000 tonnes of fish, mostly from India and Myanmar.
DoF official Nittyaranjan said: “Imported fish are not tested for heavy metals. But they are tested for formalin on requisition by Customs.”
DoF Director General Syed Arif Azad, however, claimed that 99 percent of the fish available in local market were chemical-free.
According to the department, the production of fish, in last 10 years, doubled to 3.5 million tonnes – 50 percent of them produced in enclosed spaces.
Last year, 70,000 tonnes of fish were exported with the rest being consumed locally.
CAB general secretary Anwar expects measures of DoF and Bangladesh Council of Science and Industrial Research (BCSIR) to cut down on health hazards that consumption of fish could cause.
Nittyaranjan said they had pushed for a ‘good aquaculture practice’ in an effort to avoid harmful use of antibiotics in fish.
He expects use of banned antibiotics would come down if the farmers were made aware of its negative impact.