Coup de Yaas: Too few boats for hilsa hunting
Cyclone Yaas, which hit coastal districts of the state on May 26, dealt a severe blow to fishermen in East Midnapore and South 24-Parganas, as only 40% of trawlers were able to venture out to catch the precious hilsa Tuesday, the first day of government authorized fishing this season.
Sources estimate that at least 30% of trawlers will not be able to set sail this year due to the disruption of the lives and livelihoods of fishermen after the recent cyclone amid the pandemic.
Sources from the Fisheries Department said that under normal circumstances 8,000 trawlers and boats would have sailed on June 15, the official end of the three-month (April 15-June 14) annual ban on fishing on the east coast to allow unhindered reproduction.
But on Tuesday, only 3,500 boats and trawlers came out to catch hilsa. Fisheries department officials said more than 30% of trawlers would venture out in the next two weeks as many fishermen were too busy struggling with the basics of survival to do their jobs.
“Only 40 percent of trawlers and boats could sail on day one and that number could increase in the days to come, but many fishermen who lost their homes to Yaas are still too busy trying to rebuild their lives to fishing, “said a district official and added that the likely outcome would be a third consecutive year of low hilsa yield in Bengal.
Akhil Giri, the state’s fisheries minister, held a meeting on Saturday with members of the fishermen’s association to discuss potential issues.
“According to our department’s survey, 30% of the boats will not sail this time due to (the impact of) Yaas and other reasons. But we will try to get them back to work soon, that’s important, ”he said.
Fisheries department officials said they feared a poor catch of hilsa this year due to “low morale” and “infrastructure handicap”.
“Many fishermen have suffered the impact of Cyclone Yaas. Many fishermen have lost their homes to the floods. If a person has three boats, chances are they will only sail one this time. As a result, we cannot expect sufficient hilsa production at the start of the season. However, we hope that many more fishermen and trawlers will join the fleet as the season progresses, ”said Jayanta Pradhan, deputy director of fisheries (marine) in southern 24-Parganas.
Sources said the impact of Cyclone Amphan that hit the state last year was not as bad for the fishing community as Yaas. The floods were more endemic after Yaas.
Several members of the association also pointed out that hundreds of fishermen were currently settling in makeshift shelters following the cyclone, which made them reluctant to leave their families.
“My house was swept away by Yaas and I spend sleepless nights under a tarp with my family. How can I think of sailing a boat for days on end, leaving my family in such a situation? Asked Prabhat Bar, a fisherman from Shankarpur in eastern Midnapore.
Officials from the fisheries department and fishermen’s associations in South 24-Parganas and East Midnapore said that aside from Yaas, last year’s low hilsa catches have also discouraged many fishing teams this year.
In 2019, fishermen caught 25,000 metric tonnes of hilsa during the monsoon. The figure fell to 5,000 tonnes in the corresponding 2020 season.
“Yaas has hit the coastal region hard and many fishermen do not want to sail immediately as they are busy repairing their homes. We also faced a serious loss of hilsa catch last year, as the yield was very low, ”said Satinath Patra, Sunderban Union secretary Samudrik Matsyojibi Shramik, suggesting that the morale of the fishermen was low. .
Some trawler owners have chosen optimism, however.
“The fishermen of Odisha get a good quantity of hilsa. So we think this time we can catch more fish. Certainly, the production will initially be low because many trawlers will not be at sea. But the annual production of hilsa will depend on the number of boats that will navigate in the second phase, ”said Shyamsundar Das, secretary of the Fishermen and Traders Association. of Digha fish.