Fish famine puts Goans in a curry over export ban
Gawde and other Goans are missing their staple fish from meals as supplies have crashed in recent months because of overfishing and water pollution, sending prices skyrocketing.Updated: Nov 02, 2017 22:51 IST
In north Goa’s picturesque Parra village, morning meals have for months been missing its most important ingredient and an eternal favourite: The red-spicy coated Bangar (Mackerel).
“The fish prices have doubled- tripled in the last three years. A single mackerel would which we brought for 5 rupees now costs 20-25 rupees,” said Sandhya Gawde, a housewife from Anjuna village in the region.
“It is ironical that people come to Goa for sea food while the locals cannot afford it.”
Gawde and other Goans are missing their staple fish from meals as supplies have crashed in recent months because of overfishing and water pollution, sending prices skyrocketing.
The crisis has reached such proportions that Goa’s fisheries minister Vinod Paliencar on Monday promised a ban on fish exports. “We are looking to ban exports. Goans do not get much fish to eat here. There is a need for a ban,” said Palienkar.
His statement has sparked a debate in the state that derives much of its revenues from the six million tourists who make a beeline for its scenic beaches and seafood-based cuisine.
Exporters are worried over the loss of revenues and local fishermen say they back the move but demand cold storage to store the additional fish. Goa exported fish worth around Rs 600 crore last year.
“Such a move will have a detrimental impact on the state’s and country’s economy,” said Maulana Ibrahim, Goa president, Seafood Exporters Association of India, and added that the 40 tonnes of fish exported in a day cannot be dumped in the local market.
The fishing community blames exporters and middlemen for their woes. “There is absolutely no structure at all from which the local fishermen can benefit from,” said Olencio Simoes vice-chairperson, National Fishworkers Forum (NFF).
But for all sections, the real worry is the fast-declining catch of fish.
The state fisheries department reports a three-fold decline in Mackerel catch between 2013 and 2016. Similarly, the catch of sardines has fallen from 80,849 tonnes in 2014 to less than 7,000 tonnes in 2016. Other species of such as cuttle fish and silver belly have also shown a sharp drop in haul.
Marine biologists blame overfishing and excessive use of sophisticated trawlers, especially by exporters, and marine pollution leading to a dip in the oxygen levels.
“Pollution levels have increased across the coastline,” said Baban Ingole, a senior marine biologist at the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa. “The situation of fish famine is a problem being faced by almost all the states on the coastline including Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka due to the increased levels of pollutions.”
In a 2010 research paper, Ingole, Goa’s leading marine biologist, had warned the government of a fish famine
He had also added that the local favourite Mackerel would be the first to leave the Goan waters of the Arabian Sea.
“A decline has happened and that is why we are working on getting the fish to the locals first. We will set up corporations and stalls with subsidised fish. A proposal has already been sent by me to the chief minister on this,” added Paliencar.