Vijayawada: As smuggling of bloodworms from several brackish water bodies has become rampant affecting the local biodiversity, the forest authorities advised aqua farmers to culture them in their ponds and avoid penal action in parts of Andhra Pradesh.
Several lakes including Pulicat with brackish water have become vulnerable for smuggling of blood worms to hatcheries located in parts of East and West Godavari, Nellore, Visakhapatnam, Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and other areas in the state. There are nearly 300 hatcheries in the state.
Aqua farmers who culture Vannamei shrimps after importing brooders from Hawaii, Singapore, Mexico and other nations use bloodworms to feed them with an expectation that it helps quick growth, lay more eggs and get more number of hatchlings so that they get good price in both international and domestic markets. Those who raise ornamental fish also feed them with bloodworms with an expectation that such feed helps the fish to have strong pigmentation and help them earn good money by selling them.
As a kilogram of bloodworms fetches Rs 2,000 to Rs 4,000 and have huge demand to use as feed, they are being caught from the beds of water bodies and are being smuggled to hatcheries.
All the collected bloodworms mainly from Venadu Island of Pulicat lake get transported to the market in Chennai as there are a number of hatcheries located in Tamil Nadu also in addition to parts of Andhra Pradesh.
Though the forest authorities have been booking cases under the provisions of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and also under AP Forest Act, 1967, the illegal practice of collection of bloodworms and smuggling them out to various destinations, is going unabated.
Moreover, collection of bloodworms from water bodies is affecting the local biodiversity as thousands of migratory birds which feed on them are being deprived of such feed forcing them to move to other places in search of food while fish in the water bodies which also feed on them are also losing their source of feed resulting in their deaths. This again results in some local fishermen who eke out their livelihood by catching fish in local water bodies and sell them to the customers losing their source of livelihood.
To overcome all these problems, the forest authorities have come up with an idea to advise the aqua farmers having hatcheries to culture bloodworms in their own ponds so that they need not encourage the illegal practice of catching them and smuggling them and facing penal action.
Sullurpeta divisional forest officer D. Ravindranath Reddy said, “We are advising aqua farmers to culture bloodworms on their own to feed their shrimps and fish to avoid the illegal practice of smuggling. We are also sensitising aqua farmers to adopt such a practice.”