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Reports: Iraqi fish dying from highly contagious disease

Koi Herpesvirus is deadly for carp, which are a staple of Iraqi cuisine.
Iraq fish

Iraqi fish are dying from a highly contagious viral disease, according to local media. 

Thousands of tons of fish have died due to koi herpesvirus in Iraq’s central Babil province. The disease began afflicting the fish in 2018, several Iraqi news outlets reported Wednesday. Images circulating in Iraqi media show large schools of dead fish floating on the water’s surface. 

The Iraqi News Agency reported Friday that the Ministry of Environment sent teams to Babil to investigate. 

Koi Herpesvirus is highly contagious among carp. It has been detected in the United States, Europe and Asia in addition to the Middle East, according to the University of California, Davis. The mortality rate is 80-100%, and survivors of the disease can still carry it, according to the University of Florida. 

Carp are an important part of Iraqi cuisine and the economy. Though Iraq is mostly landlocked, the country has numerous rivers and lakes, and carp are freshwater fish. Masgouf is the traditional Iraqi grilled fish dish, and is widely eaten throughout the country. 

Iraq’s waters have also faced environmental issues in recent years. Basra in the south has been suffering from a terrible water crisis since 2018. Lake Milh in the southern city of Karbala also partly dried up in 2018.

The outlook is not all gloomy, however. Lake Milh and also Lake Habbaniya in the western Anbar province both refilled significantly in 2020. There was also substantial rainfall in 2019 amid concerns about drought. 

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