Fishermen are also hard hit by the seasonal migration of the fish, as fishing expeditions are becoming so costly that they are unable to recover the expenses incurred, even after selling the haul. Whereas earlier they would net fish at eight nautical miles from the shore, fish are elusive even at 15 nautical miles from the coast nowadays.
"Climate change has compelled fish to go deep into the sea, making us lose out on our daily catch. This is resulting in the scarcity and price hike. After Makar Sankranti each year, the season is good for tarli (sardines), surmai (seer), jhinga (prawns), but this is the first time that even these regular varieties are hard to come by, even after venturing 50 to 60 nautical miles deep into the sea," said Mahesh Tandel, president of the Maharashtra Machhimar Vikas Sangh at Cuffe Parade.
The fishermen spend a staggering Rs 1.5 lakh for every fishing trip -- for the boat, 2,000 litres of diesel, 12 -13 tonnes of ice to keep the fish fresh and preserve food for the fishermen. The haul of a few tones of fish usually rakes in Rs 2 lakh, a poor margin of profit when compared to the labour put in. Die-hard fish lovers are being forced to shell out heart-stopping amounts for their daily fish fix. Tandel added, "I had a customer who bought a pair of Pomfret from me for Rs 2,000 (double king size) and Surmai (Seer) for Rs 1,600 (single king size)."
Pramod Pawale, chairman of the Sea Food Suppliers' Association, confirmed Tandel's view, adding, "The 35,000 to 40,000 daily wage earners who peel and scale fish at the Sassoon Dock are mostly without much work these days. Sassoon Dock usually generates over Rs 1,000 crore in foreign currency for the government exchequer."
He attributed the crisis to other factors such as overfishing and pollution.
Dr Jiyalal Jeshwar, Senior Principal Scientist at National Institute of Oceanography averred with Pawale, saying, "A major contributor is the presence of pollutants along the coastline, which is actually the root cause of the dwindling numbers of fishes in and around the seashores today."
Speaking on the same matter, Dr Jiyalal Jeshwar, senior principal scientist at the same institute said, "The assimilation capacity of sea is very high and waste water should be treated as per the standards set by the Pollution Control Board. Secondly, the treated water and effluents should not be released into estuaries or creeks directly. They should be collected and discharged via submarine pipelines deep into the ocean."
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