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Govt climbs down on fish safety stance

PANAJI: The recent decision of the state government to relax the mandatory norms of the food and drugs administration for smalltime fishermen from Maharashtra and Karnataka for fish transportation has indicated that the government has not only climbed down from its stand on formalin row but also diverted the issue to fish transportation.

The latest order issued by the health department states that only traditional fishermen of Karnataka and Maharashtra who transport fish from the radius of 60 kilometre of the Goa borders will be permitted to get their fish into the state.

The government has said the fish consignments will be allowed to be carried only in small light motor vehicles like Boleros, Tata Mobiles, and similar four-wheelers. But questions have been raised over the absence of a mechanism to check the origin of the catch: who will monitor whether the fish consignments arriving in four-wheelers are the catch from the traditional fishermen and transported from 60 kilometre of the Goa borders.

The order of the government doesn’t mention about any mechanism to zero in on the big fish traders who may transport their consignments into the state from far-off places of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala and other states in the small four-wheelers.

The FDA has been directed to deploy their teams of officials at the borders for effective enforcement of the norms in coordination with the police and the transport department. However, there is no mention in the order about any authority to ensure that the four-wheelers are transporting the catch of the traditional fishermen living within the 60-kilometre radius from the Goa borders.

The issue over the testing of fish for formalin and other adulterants have been diverted and taken over by fish transportation. The fish transportation only in small four-wheelers in insulated boxes with adequate ice doesn’t ensure the safety and quality of fish.

Moreover, no significant progress has been made to set up the ‘world-class’ laboratory, which was proposed in October by roping  in the Export Inspection Council and the Quality Council of India.

The FDA and the health department have also not come out with a robust mechanism for testing fish and failed to inspire the confidence of the people in the quality and safety of fish. Instead they have been just dependent on the rapid detection kits for adulterants in fresh fish. There are doubts over the accuracy of these tests.

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