An Iraqi boy helps to clear dead fish from nearby farms floating on the Euphrates River near the town of Sadat al-Hindiya, north of the central Iraqi city of Hilla, on November 2, 2018. Photo: Haidar Hamdani/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Agriculture announced a ban on imports of fish from central and southern Iraq due to the recent large-scale deaths. The ministry will open imports from Turkey and Iran to fill the gap.
“Following the death of the countless number of fish in Babylon province and the Euphrates River, the Agriculture Ministry of the Kurdistan Region, to protect domestic products and prevent the spread of disease, decided to ban imports of fish and minnows from southern and central Iraq to the Kurdistan Region,” Sirwan Saeed, director of fish resources at the ministry, told Rudaw.
The KRG wants to know the reason why such large numbers of fish died – whether it was because of disease or deliberate poisoning – and is waiting for the results of tests by the Iraqi government before making further decisions.
In the meantime, “We will allow more fish to be imported from Iran and Turkey to the Kurdistan Region,” said Saeed.
Fishery owners in Babylon province and southern Iraq are wondering what killed tons of fish last week. Officials have said bacterial rot, water shortages, or improper fisheries may be to blame. But some of the public fear the water may have been deliberated poisoned.
Iraq’s parliament discussed the problem when it met on Thursday.
The ministers of health, agriculture, and water resources attended the session, as did the head of Babylon’s provincial council.
Dubbing the deaths a “catastrophe,” Minister of Agriculture Saleh al-Hassani blamed high numbers of fish farms, pollution from a nearby electricity generation station, low water levels, and increased temperatures, all of which encouraged the spread of disease.
Minister of Health Alaa al-Alwani told parliament his ministry is working on containing the impact of the deaths on the environment. He has been on a field visit alongside the World Health Organization (WHO) to take test samples.
Laboratory results indicated industrial contamination in the river water and high ammonia levels, he said.
Some 90 percent of the fish have been removed from the river, Minister of Water Resources Jamal al-Adili told parliament. He said the quality of the water has not been affected.
After hearing the reports, many MPs were still concerned, with some claiming there was a conspiracy at work to damage Iraq’s economy.