Fish prices soar beyond reach of many

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Alappuzha: Sardine is the star on many trolls on social media in the backdrop of the 52-day trawling ban that came into effect on June 9. As fish prices skyrocket with each passing day, sardine has shed its tag of being affordable priced in markets in Kerala.

These days you have to shell out Rs 250 for a kilo of sardine more than double the price of chicken!!! Trawling ban and short supply of fish triggered the fish prices to soar alarmingly. The common man’s favourite fish, the sardine (mathi), was sold at Rs 160 to Rs 180 per kg last week compared to the present rate of Rs 250 per kg. The average price of mackerel (ayala) is Rs 280 to Rs 300, tuna (kera) Rs 360 to Rs 400, sailfish (olakudi) Rs 370 to Rs 420, cobia (modha) Rs 700 and trevally (vatta) Rs 480. 

The fish prices are not uniform and can differ from shop to shop. Many traders said that fishes such as pink perch (kilimeen), anchovy (kozhuva), red snapper (chemballi) and tuna (choora) are not available in the market. A marked dip in fish supply and rising prices have adversely affected the fish merchants and customers alike, and many fish outlets have shut shop for a while.

The short supply of fish is due to fishers not venturing into sea on conventional boats because of unfavourable weather conditions and the 52-day trawling ban. The traders are expecting more fish from Tamil Nadu as trawling ban had been lifted in the neighbouring state the other day. 

No sign of ‘chakara’

The fishermen are despondent as ‘chakara’ (mudbank), a phenomenon whereby shoals of fish could be found along the coast, is still elusive though the trawling ban is in place and the skies have cleared. It has been more than two weeks since fishers from Thottapally fishing harbour, Punnapra fish landing centre and Paravur Galilea coast had ventured into the sea.

Rampant coastal erosion has taken place till the fish landing centre at Punnapra, and the turbulent sea has forced the fishers to keep their boats in auction halls. The government’s directive to the fishermen not to go for fishing has also put them in a quandary. The fishermen of the Thottapally fishing harbour are in a spot of bother as their boats are getting damaged during low tide.

The mudbank usually appears between Thottapally and Paravur during the monsoon season. With dwindling catch along the Kerala coast, the fish prices have trebled and fish mainly from Tamil Nadu, Goa and Mangaluru in Karnataka are being sold in the market. Meanwhile, stale fish are also being sold as frozen fish to the customers.

The fishermen who venture into the sea on small non-mechanized gillnetters (ponthu vallam) usually get a catch of small fish, shrimps and mullet (kanambu). These fishers sell their catch by spreading the nets near to the national highway and many motorists could be seen buying such fresh fish.

If ‘chakara’ becomes elusive, the coastal population would face financial problems as most of them had taken loans from banks and other financial institutions to buy boats and other fishing equipment.

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