Indian fishermen dump wild-caught seafood into the sea due to lockdown

Published on
April 3, 2020

Fishermen from a western state in India had no other choice but threw away their wild-caught seafood due to the adverse impacts of the current lockdown, The Hindu BusinessLine reported on 30 March.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the lockdown, which entered into force at midnight on 24 March for a 21-day period, in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the world’s second-most populous country. Industrial establishments have been shut down, except for manufacturing units of essential commodities. Businesses that have needed to keep continuous operations have sought approval from local governments. Transport services, including air and rail, have been suspended, except for those dealing with essential goods.

A ban on most forms of transportation and the shutdown of ice factories, fishing ports, and processing plants as a result of the lockdown have made it impossible for fishermen to sell or stock their output. Therefore, fishermen in the Raigad district of Maharashtra state had to dump around 100,000 metric tons (MT) of wild-caught seafood back into the sea. Among the species thrown away after their 15 days fishing were mackerel, tuna, squid, ribbonfish, catfish, and prawns.

The Raigad fishermen had not been aware of the lockdown in advance and initiated their fishing before the strict measures were imposed.

“We are also helpless to respond to their call as the lockdown has hindered all cargo movement,” All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association’s General Secretary Joseph Xavier Kalappurackal said.

The lockdown affected not only fishermen, but also the workforce in fish landing centers, ice factories, and traders in many parts of India, industry sources told The Hindu BusinessLine.

The fishing community in the country is hoping the central government will consider including seafood products in the list of essential food items under the Essential Commodities Act, so that processing, transportation, and marketing of seafood can reopen and operate during the lockdown.

Fishermen in the southern state of Kerala did not have to dump fish into the sea as their peers did in Maharashtra. But lower output and the shutdown of markets and cold storage facilities were affecting supply in the region, causing fish prices to hike, the newspaper reported.

India’s government has prioritized the fisheries sector in its 2020 annual budget, setting the target for fisheries production at 20 million MT by 2022-2023, News 18 reported on 1 February. That would represent an increase of 50 percent from 13.34 million MT in 2018-2019.

Photo courtesy of Gosza Wlodarczyk/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from Hanoi, Vietnam

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