Use of antibiotics is strongly linked with antibiotic resistance. Just like in humans, antibiotic overuse and misuse in rearing food animals such as chicken, fish, dairy and pigs is known to cause emergence and spread of resistance. Besides food and direct contact, waste from such animal and aquaculture farms carrying antibiotic residues and resistant bacteria spreads resistance to larger environment and affects human health.
Aquaculture is another sector of huge importance and is marked by unregulated use of antibiotics and limited attention to waste management in policy and practice. CSE travelled across six key fish producing districts in West Bengal − a major fish producing state in India to garner an understanding of the antibiotic use and waste management practices in aquaculture farms, both traditional and intensive settings.
The investigation has revealed unregulated availability of antibiotics to farmers without prescription. Farmers used antibiotics prohibited for fish, not labelled for fish or those which are critical for humans. No professional disease management was observed. Also, there was no waste management across all farms and hatcheries. Untreated wastewater was commonly discharged into the water source and no effluent treatment systems were in place.
These issues were further discussed with aquaculture experts across India, in a meeting organized by CSE, which had representation from stakeholder departments at centre and key states associated with fishery, drug control, pollution control, food safety etc. Several aspects of policy and practice which influence use of antibiotics and waste management at the state level were discussed and deliberated upon.