Rough seas kept them ashore for a month after monsoon ban on trawlers

The 57-day ban on deep-sea fishing with mechanised trawlers imposed by the Government every year during the monsoon used to be a boon for traditional fishermen with small boats. But unusually rough seas this year forced them to stay ashore.

Saturday was the first opportunity they got to venture out to sea, almost 30 days after the ban on trawlers came into effect. “The catch was reasonable today but not great,” said B.K. Vasudev, president of the Mangalore unit of the Karnataka Traditional Fishermen's Federation. By this time last year, traditional fishermen had completed over 15 days of fishing and earned over Rs. 20,000 each, he added.

The market is usually flooded with white shrimp at this time, which is caught in the shallow waters just off the coast. This is also the time of the year when the fresh ‘Bangude' (Indian mackerel) and ‘Buthai' (sardines) enter the market.

“The fish caught by the deep-sea by trawlers usually take one or two days to be brought to shore but the catch by traditional fishermen is sold the same day,” said Mr. Vasudev.

The fish markets, which are characterised by brisk activity and noise, were unusually calm on Saturday. The in-season white shrimp was nowhere to be seen. The only sea fish on sale was not only expensive but also stale.

“All the sea fish is either from Kerala or Tamil Nadu. It has to be stored in ice to preserve it,” said Leelavathi (54), a woman who sells fish at the Jeppu Market.

Sunil Kumar, owner of a hotel in Moodbidri who spoke to The Hindu at the market near State Bank of India here, said that he had not found fresh fish for a month. Since the fishing moratorium, the price of ‘Bangude' has increased to Rs. 100 a kg from Rs. 60. Price of ‘Buthai' — the poor man's fish — has shot up from 50 paise each to Rs. 20. However, the price of ‘Anjal' (seer) has remained almost constant.

“But the size of the ‘Anjal' has reduced drastically. Earlier, we used to get fish weighing up to 15 kg each but now their weight ranges from 5 kg to 6,” Mr. Sunil said.

However, there is some action in the fish market here with a small but steady supply of river fish. The most popular river fish is ‘Mala', a slender, silvery variety that grows up to around 1.5 ft in length. The other river fish in supply is ‘Kane' (angel fish). The prices of these two varieties fluctuate wildly. ‘Mala' may cost as much as Rs. 250 a kg and come down to Rs. 125 a kg. The price of ‘Kane' varies between Rs. 200 and Rs. 350 a kg.

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