Mozambique has banned the importation of cultured fish from Malawi, following the outbreak of a lethal disease in fish reared in captivity in the country.
The decision was announced in Maputo by the Minister of Sea, Interior Waters and Fisheries, Augusta Maita, Mozambique’s largest newspaper, Noticias, reported on Wednesday.
The paper reported that authorities, mainly from the provinces of Niassa, Zambezia and Tete have been directed to take preventive measures and maintain epidemiological surveillance in relation to the outbreak.
“There is no indication that this virus is in the national territory. However, as a sector, we are informing and working with local authorities in order to enable them to identify the clinical symptoms of the disease.
“So, in case of suspicion, they should notify the fisheries investigation authorities,’’ Maita is quoted.
However, the minister said, the consumption of cultured fish in Mozambique is not prohibited as there is no evidence that the disease, epizootic ulcerative syndrome (EUS), can cause problems in humans.
The disease, also known as red spot disease, is caused by fungus associated with low temperatures and can kill almost all fish that catch it, threatening regional fishing and aquaculture in inland waters.
“It already occurred in some countries in Europe and Asia in the ’70s. In 2008, there was an outbreak in Botswana. We have taken preventive measures that have helped us not to register cases in our country,’’ the minister said.
The Department of Fisheries has since expressed fear that the outbreak of EUS may wipe out species of fish in the country’s water bodies, including lake Malawi.
In an interview on Wednesday, director of fisheries in the Ministry of Agriculture, Friday Njaya conceded the EUS disease may rapidly wipe out fish species in water bodies.
Njaya said the discovery of the disease last month in Mchinji district, moved government and relevant stakeholders in aquaculture to take action to contain and prevent its spread.
Njaya said: “Our team is on the ground mapping the affected areas to ascertain the extent of the disease and the damage.”
Last week, the Southern Africa Development Community and partners in fisheries in a statement expressed fear that the outbreak of EUS disease in fish, the first ever in Malawi, can affect livelihoods of over 55 000 fishers in and around Lake Malawi if left unchecked.
EUS disease was first reported in Japan fish farms in 1971, it later spread to rest of the world.