Kendrapara: Hilsa is back on the diners’ menu bringing joy for both fishermen and fish lovers in Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur districts.
Hilsa, the king of fish, has been on the common man’s plate for the last six days due to abundant catch and low price. The succulent fish has flooded the local markets of Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Jajpur and Cuttack.
“Hilsa weighing less than 500 gram is now available between Rs 200 and Rs 300 per kg as per size whereas the bigger varieties more than a kilo in weight are now being sold between Rs 500 and Rs 550. Now, the fish is supplied to different markets of Jagatsinghpur, Cuttack, Kendrapara and Jajpur districts,” said Tushar Sardar, secretary of Ramchandi Boat Owners’ Association, Kharnashi.
“The monsoon catch of the fish was abundant this week. The prices had come down to Rs 200 a pair, though the size was less than 500 gram,” said Krushna Dalai, a fisherman of Kendrapara fish market at old bus stand.
“The unusually high yield has resulted in a drastic fall in the price of the fish. Thanks to the excess supply of Hilsa, which was selling for Rs 800 to Rs 1,200 a kg depending on the size in this district last week, is now available at a reasonable price in the last three days,” said Aparajita Tripathy, a housewife of Baniamala.
“We savour Hilsa curry. Drop in price has given us the opportunity to buy Hilsa,” said Sabhashree Bhabani, another homemaker.
In the last six days or so, a gillnetter boat managed to catch three quintals of Hilsa. It’s good news for fishermen. Last year too, Hilsa catch was high. Fishermen wait for the Hilsa season to earn extra money. This year, they are expected to earn handsome profits, said Manas Ranjan Sahu, assistant director of fisheries (marine) Kujanga.
The peculiar habitat of Hilsa makes it impossible to breed it artificially unlike other fish. The adult Hilsa swims several kilometres upstream to freshwater from the sea for spawning and returns to saline water after hatching the eggs in freshwater. The sub-adult Hilsa flows back downstream into the sea, a process that takes a few months. Generally, during the low tide, the fishermen catch abundant Hilsa at the confluence of Mahanadi and Bay of Bengal.
“Early release of floodwater in the Mahanadi and heavy rain in the coastal belt along with strong eastern wind has resulted in the high catch. If such weather condition prevails in the coming days, then the fishermen would be able to catch more Hilsa,” said Sahu.
Earlier, fishermen had faced a tough time due to fishing ban in view of Olive Ridley nesting and fish breeding season. Their hardships continued even after the fishing activities resumed due to bad weather. But things have changed in the past one week, bringing relief to the fishing community. “We caught several quintals of Hilsa fish today. A fortnight back, we returned empty-handed,” said Anathabandhu Das, owner of a fleet of mechanised fishing boats
Sardar said fishermen generally take money from middlemen during fishing ban and to repair boats. So they were forced to hand over the Hilsa yield to them.
Another factor is lack of market facilities in the district. The fishermen generally sell Hilsa at Paradip fish market. Also, they fail to get the required quantity of ice to preserve Hilsa catch. So, they generally sell the fish at a throwaway price; or else the fish would rot. Due to power cut at regular intervals, the fishermen are forced to sell Hilsa at a cheaper rate, said Ashok Hota, another fisherman.