Trawlers, purseiners and Gillnetters, which will venture out in the new fishing season at midnight on Wednesday after the 47-day trawling ban, are hoping to haul in big catches in the wake of unusually heavy rains in June and July.

The end of the trawling ban is also expected to cool fish prices, which have hit a record high this rainy season. The price of sardines went up to Rs.140 a kg in the retail market, up from Rs.50 before the trawl ban. The prices of important species like anchovies and mackerels too went through the roof.

Buyers in the Edakochi market were reluctant to buy anchovies on Tuesday as it cost Rs.120 a kg, up from Rs.40 or Rs.50 a kg before the ban came into effect. Mackerels cost approximately Rs.60 per 200 grams.

By a rough estimate, more than 4,500 fishing vessels, including about 3,800 trawlers, 600 gill netters and 85 purseiners, which came under the ban, will be out in the sea in the new season off the coast of Kerala.

“We are seeing a great season ahead as is usually after good rains,” said Joseph Xavier Kalappurakkal of Mechanised Boat Owners’ Association.

He said heavy rains in July usually brought fishes close to the coast as the waters cool. The traditional boats did not net big catches of sardines and mackerels during the ban period.

Charles George of Fisheries Coordination Committee said traditional fishermen, using inboard and outboard engines and non-mechanised canoes, met with little success during the ban period. The ban period usually sees traditional fishers landing substantial catch during the period. However, heavy rain this season prevented fishing expeditions during most of July, he said.

Ban on trawling was introduced in 1988 after the Dr. Balakrishnan Nair committee recommended it to prevent catching commercially important varieties during their spawning season. An evaluation of the practice after 25 years by a committee headed by Dr. Sunil Kumar Mohammed recommended extension of the ban to 75 days and including even the traditional sector in the ban, though for a shorter period.

However, the recommendations were opposed. Mr. George said the non-mechanised and traditional sectors did not need to be banned totally but required to be controlled and regulated.

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