It was an unusually easy day at the Munambam fishing harbour. You can make it out from some of the near-empty auction halls. It is past seven and usually the business is at its peak this time of the morning.
The flow of the boats into the harbour is a trickle as the monsoon-affected sea keeps small fishing boats at bay. Fewer than 10 of them arrived with their catch on the day, starting around 5 a.m. The slackened business at the harbour has also to do with the trawling ban, which has forced boats to dock for annual repairs and maintenance.
But there is enough buzz around to make out what life is on a day when 75 to 100 fishing boats come to the harbour with their catch. Ice crushing, in full swing, gives you a clue as mountains of it are piled along the auction halls.
And, as a boat arrives with cuttle fish and arrow squids, there is a rush of fibre trays that are quickly loaded and the fish washed thoroughly before being piled up for auction. The auctions quick business sessions that last between 10 and 15 minutes. As the day wears on, the parking lots are getting empty as lorries get ready to take fish to vendors across Kerala.
A look around the harbour and you realise that the fishing harbour is pick-and-span. Not the run-of-the-mill fish stations and markets that dot Kerala’s coast line. The floors are wet and shiny and fishes are being packed neatly and being iced carefully.
The openings are guarded by nets and aluminium mesh to prevent birds from entering the auctioning area. Water from a bore well is used to clean the business area twice a day. This is what has made Munambam fishing harbour stand out among the nine major fishing harbours in the State. Bharathan, a long-time fish broker at Munambam says that the fishing harbour is an example for the others. Suthan, the coordinator for the fishing harbour administered by the Munambam Fishing Harbour Management Society, says that things have got better at the harbour over these past couple of years thanks to the strict vigil kept by the society over its daily affairs.
A senior scientist, engaged in conservation efforts in the State, says that the Munambam fisheries harbour is being run efficiently and needed to be replicated elsewhere in the State. A leading seafood exporter said that the Munambam harbour is among the best in the State and pointed to the other harbours not matching its standards.
The harbour, in existence over a long time, was redone and re-commissioned in 2005, complete with a net mending yard, under an initiative by the Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), which sanctioned Rs. 2.6 crore for the project.
The fishing harbour recently received Rs.1.36 crore from National Fisheries Development Board, Hyderabad. Renovation of the compound wall is being carried out with the money. The society is also building a new water tank for the harbour area. New facilities like a chilling room and ice-making machine are being established.
Mr. Suthan said that the success of the society that runs the harbour has representatives of all stakeholders as its members. Issues are addressed quickly and effectively on a day-to-day basis.