Mumbai: Boycott baby pomfret, save a species

Updated: Aug 26, 2019, 07:19 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

Alarmed by the prevalence of juvenile pomfret in the market, environmentalists and activists appeal to both customers and fisherfolk to spare one of city's favourite fishes

Smaller pomfret have been increasingly making their way into fish markets over the last few years
Smaller pomfret have been increasingly making their way into fish markets over the last few years

An abundance of pomfret, the go-to fish for seafood-lovers, at fish markets is probably no reason to rejoice. It's a worrying sign instead, believe fishermen and researchers as it involves killing juvenile pomfret to cater to the increasing demand. Fishing of baby pomfret, say marine scientists, negatively impacts the lifecycle of the species, endangering it.

According to marine scientists, the average size of the Pomfret around 1980 used to be 300 gram when it reached fish markets, but it is now around 50 grams on an average which is way lesser. Ganesh Nakhwa, president of Maharashtra Purse Seine Fishing Welfare Association, said it was "disturbing to see juvenile Pomfret arriving in huge amounts at Ferrywharf Fishing Harbour." He said, "Most restaurants now serve Pomfrets all round the year and have pushed prices sky-high. To cater to this huge demand, all sizes of Pomfrets end up at the harbour since there are enough buyers."

Also Read: Fishermen shun Bombay duck, once city's favourite

Fishermen say that there is a huge demand for pomfret, which is why the young ones are being caught
Fishermen say that there is a huge demand for pomfret, which is why the young ones are being caught

Nakhwa, along with other fishermen, has appealed to consumers to prefer buying large Pomfrets to allow smaller ones to grow. "People should prefer only full-grown Pomfrets and avoid eating baby Pomfrets. Only when the demand for smaller fishes goes down, the supply of juvenile pomfrets will decrease. I would also request the consumers to check the right season to eat the right fish and make responsible choices. There are many seafood choices available in the market," Nakhwa urged. Dr Vinay Deshmukh, a formwer principal scientist at the Mumbai's Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), said that the annual landings (catch) had come down drastically over the last three decades.

According to fishermen, the primary reason behind the drop in numbers was overfishing in dol nets (karli dol or bag nets), trawl nets and daalda nets (gill nets). CMFRI, since 1980, has been researching on the various fishes caught annually across Maharashtra's west coast. A scientist part of the research told mid-day that over the years, fishermen have made changes in their dol nets used for fishing so that all sizes of Pomfrets are caught.

Also Read: Food special: The Bombay Duck's history with Mumbai

Deshmukh said, "Overfishing of Pomfret has a negative impact on the lifecycle/seasonality of the fish. In 1986, the annual catch of Pomfret in Maharashtra was 16,000 tonnes which has drastically decreased to 5,000 tonnes on an average. Earlier, the season for the fish used to start in Diwali and end by December-January with fishermen in the Thane-Palghar belt earning huge revenue because of this. Now, however, the actual season ends in barely a month and a half."

According to scientists, Pomfrets lay eggs between November to March and from February to May, baby Pomfrets start hatching from the eggs. Earlier, fishermen in Vasai-Virar and Palghar used to stop fishing activity using dol nets around February-March as it requires strong water current which is missing during this season. Various online websites that sell fish, charge around R749 (Sunday's price) for a kilo of small Pomfret fishes.

16k tonnes
Annual catch of pomfret in state in 1986

5k tonnes
Annual catch of pomfret in state today

What fish to eat when

In order to help preserve the species of fish around the Mumbai coastline, and to ensure that they continue to thrive, it is important that we know about the various seasons that they spawn in and how to choose the right ones to eat and when. For more information, please check out the seafood calendar on @knowyourfish @inseasonfish on Instagram.

Also Read: Recipe: The Malvani pomfret

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