The only catch the city will get will be brought in by small boats and catamarans

Seafood prices in the city have begun shooting up with the imposition of the 45-day ban on mechanised fishing boats. Die-hard fans of fish may have no option but to curb their craving.

Over the past few days, a kilogram of deboned vanjaram (seer fish) is being sold at Rs. 900. A week ago, it cost Rs. 600 a kilo. “Prices of fish have been on the rise for the past few days. With the ban coming into force, prices are expected to increase even further,” said a source in the Tamil Nadu Fisheries Development Corporation, which runs a number of stalls in the city.

Sankara (red snapper) is being sold at Rs. 200 a kilo, nethili (anchovies) at Rs. 200 and kanava (squid) at Rs. 150 a kilo. I cannot afford fish at such rates, which is why I plan to cut down on consumption this summer. We will shift to eggs and vegetables,” said Kumuda Kumaran, a resident of Perambur.

The city consumes around 130 tonnes of fish a day that lands at the Kasimedu fishing harbour. But with the fishing ban commencing, around 1,100 mechanised boats will not venture into the sea during the annual fishing holiday to allow breeding of fish.

“The only catch that the city will get will be brought in by small fibre-reinforced boats and catamarans that fish near the coast. That will only be around 3 to 4 tonnes. Fish caught by residents of various fishing hamlets will be sold there,” explained Sukumar, who runs an ice factory inside the fishing harbour.

“People who want fresh fish are coming to our villages. But now, even small fry is being sold at high prices so we don’t want to buy it as it may not get sold. My husband, a fisherman, drives an autorickshaw to supplement incomes,” said Suguna Kumaresan, a fish vendor at Thiruvanmiyur Kuppam.

During the ban, traders usually bring in fish from Kerala and Karnataka. But not many vehicles are coming in this time, said fisherfolk. “With the election around the corner, checking has become very strict. Many traders are afraid of losing money since transactions often do not involve bills or documents. Even last week, a trader lost Rs.1.50 lakh. With the Lent season ending this weekend, there will be a sudden spurt in demand but there won’t be enough fish, leading to a further increase in prices,” said Nanjil Ravi, of the Akila Indhiya Meenavar Sangam.

Fsherfolk are also demanding that the Rs. 4,000 relief fund per family card be given to them as soon as the elections are over. “They should not wait till the ban comes to a close as has been done in the past. Fisherfolk are already without work,” said M.D. Dayalan of the Indian Fishermen Association.

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