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Lack of rain, east wind keep hilsa off coast

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By ANSHUMAN PHADIKAR
  • Published 16.07.12
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Tamluk, July 15: The daily catch of hilsa in the first fortnight of July has fallen by 90 per cent this year compared with the haul in the corresponding period last year.

Fisheries department sources said in the first fortnight of July last year, fishermen caught about 100 quintals of the hilsa daily but this year 5 to 10 quintals have landed in their basket, if they were lucky.

“The fishermen are getting 10 per cent of what they caught last year. As a result they face financial loss,” said Surajit Bag, assistant director of fisheries (marine) in Contai. “We hope the situation will improve when there is adequate rainfall,” he said.

Experts said the lack of rain, which makes the brackish water sweeter, and the absence of a wind from the east, which makes the fish swim from the deeper seas towards the coast to lay eggs, are the reason why fewer hilsa have been caught. The hilsa swims into the Hooghly, Rupnarayan, Haldi and Rasulpur rivers and their tributaries to lay eggs.

“This happens during the monsoon when the wind blows from the east and rain water sweetens the brackish water close to the sea,” Bag said.

This time, not only was the monsoon late in coming, rainfall was 40 per cent below average across the country till the first week of July.

Anandadeb Mukhopadhyay, a professor of oceanography at Jadavpur University, said a steady drizzle and the wind from the east are the ideal conditions for the hilsa to swim towards the coast.

“The wind from the east drives the fish towards the coast,” he said and “in the steady rain, the fish swim upwards from the depths of the ocean”.

“But this year, rainfall has been scarce and there is very little wind from the east since June and that is why the hilsa is not in plenty in the coastal areas. The fishermen are suffering as a result,” said Mukhopadhyay.

Last year’s 100-quintal average catch was also significantly less compared to 250 quintals in 2010.

Sanjoy Das, a fish trader of Digha, said: “In the markets of Digha and Shankarpur, a hilsa weighing 500-600gm is selling for Rs 500 a kg. Larger ones are selling for Rs 700-800 a kg. Last year, I sold the same hilsa between Rs 200 and Rs 400.”

About 30,000 fishermen go to Digha and Shankarpur and neighbouring areas in 1,500 trawlers and mechanised boats to fish every year. Bhagirath Jana, a Shankarpur fish trader, said a team of 15-20 fishermen go out to sea for a week in a trawler.

“Each trawler owner spends about Rs 1 lakh on nets, ice, diesel and payments for hired hands for each trip. We are facing great difficulty as many trawlers owners are not willing ply their boats because of the dearth of fish,” said Jana.