Panaji: Faced with a dropping fish catch and high prices of locally consumed fish, the Goa government may temporarily ban export of fish in order to stabilise prices, Fisheries Minister Vinod Palienkar has said.
During his inspection of the Chapora fort, 20 km from Panaji, Palienkar also said that subsidies for the fishing industries were not really helping to keep the price of fish within the common man’s reach and a majority of the haul was being exported.
“We are looking to ban exports. Goans do not get much fish to eat here. There is a need for a ban,” Palienkar said.
Availability of cheap fish had been the poll plank of several political parties like like Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party and the Goa Forward ahead of the February Assembly polls.
The state is known for its sea food, which is sought after by the six million plus tourists who visit Goa every year.
Palienkar also said that his ministry doles out Rs 108 crore every year in subsidies to fishing trawler owners, but most of the fish caught was being diverted for exports.
“Most of the fish catch is being exported. How can we tolerate this when local Goans are not getting fish to eat and they have to shell our large sums of money to eat their fish thali at home?
“This government is thinking of cutting down the subsidy for large trawlers and the money saved will be diverted towards formation of a fisheries corporation,” Palienkar said.
Overkill of fish for export and to cater to the hospitality industry in the tourism-oriented state as well as rising sea temperatures has resulted in a fish famine of sorts in the waters off Goa, driving prices of locally consumed staple fish through the roof.
Several marine experts have been warning the Goa government about how pollution near Goa’s river mouths and in the waters off the state’s coastline as well as excessive fishing could create fish famine.
According to fisheries department statistics, while 80,849 tonnes of sardines were caught in 2014, this dropped to 57,270 tons in 2015. In 2016, this went down to 6,481 tonnes.
The same is the case with another staple fish called mackerel. While in 2013, 12,994 tonnes of mackerels were caught, in 2014 the figure dropped to 10,308 tonnes and further to 10,876 tonnes in 2015. In 2016, only 3,908 tonnes of mackerels were harvested.
Other species of fish like cuttle fish and silver belly have also shown a sharp drop in haul.