Kerala fishers appeal for more caution as lockdown brings misery on fishing sector

A view of the Kalamukku fishing harbour, in Kerala.   | Photo Credit: H. Vibhu

The Kerala Paramparagatha Matsya Thozhilali Samithy, representing fishers in the traditional sector, has called on the fishing community to impose upon itself more restrictions and to follow social-distancing norms to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as Ernakulam is seeing massive surge in the pandemic cases.

Secretary of the Samithy P. V. Jayan suggested that even the opening of the harbours, even partially, as it is happening now, would help the chances of the COVID-19 spread. He said that fishing boats, of different sizes, manned by two to 45 people are now venturing out, even on a limited level. When they come back to the shore, there is difficulty in following the COVID-19 protocol.

At the same time, there is a crisis-like situation in the inland fisheries sector brought about both by the spread of COVID-19 and the deteriorating condition of the backwaters around Kochi. P. N. Babu, convenor of the Vembanad Kayal Samrakshana Samithy, forum for protection of the Vembanad backwaters, said that the backwaters were shrinking. There is a sharp drop in catch, which has accentuated the crisis facing inland fishers in the wake of the spread of the pandemic.

He said that there was demand for inland fish from consumers despite the COVID-19 lockdown. But the fish catch had dwindled and the price of fish was going up.

In the meanwhile, Charles George of Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedhi claimed that oil sardine landings on Kerala coast had shrunk to about 35,000 tonnes (provisional figures) during the last financial year. This is down by more than 10,000 tonnes compared to the previous financial year.

“There is a crisis like situation. The fish drought is serious”, he said as he called on the government to declare a package for the coastal community even as the rations and special provision supplies were helping them.

The dwindling catch has resulted in the price of all varieties of fish going up sharply even with restrictions on markets imposed on COVID-19 control areas. While there is little oil sardine available, what has passed for the favourite fish in Kerala is the lesser sardine (Karichaala), which is now selling for about ₹280 a kg. Shrimp prices are up at about ₹550 a kg and premium quality seer (king) fish is being sold for over ₹1,000 a kg.

Mr. Jayan also said that Kochi harbours were being host to mostly boats coming from outside the district. It is the common practice for fishers to come by road to the different harbours and then venture out into the sea. However, the practice of crowded buses and transport vehicles increases the risk of COVID-19 spread, he added.

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Printable version | Jun 18, 2021 9:22:43 AM |

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