By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar

Panaji– Faced with a shrinking catch and high prices, the Goa government may temporarily ban fish export to stabilise prices, Fisheries Minister Vinod Palienkar has said.

Speaking to IANS during the inspection of the Chapora Fort, 20 km from Panaji, Palienkar also said that subsidies for the fishing industry were not really helping to keep prices within the common man’s reach and a majority of the haul was being exported.

“We are looking to ban exports. Goans do not get much fish to eat here. There is a need for a ban,” Palienkar said.

Availability of cheap fish had been the poll plank of several political parties like the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and the Goa Forward ahead of the February 4 assembly polls.

The state is known for its seafood, which is sought after by six million plus tourists who visit the state every year.

Palienkar has also said his ministry doles out Rs 108 crore every year in subsidies to fishing trawler owners, but most of the fish caught is being diverted for exports.

“Most of the fish catch is being exported. How can we tolerate this when local Goans are not getting fish to eat and they have to shell out large sums of money to eat their fish thali at home,” he said.

“This government is thinking of cutting down the subsidy for large trawlers and the money saved will be diverted towards formation of a fisheries corporation,” Palienkar said.

Overkill of fish for exports and to cater to the hospitality industry in the tourism-oriented state as well as rising sea temperatures has resulted in a fish famine of sorts in the waters off Goa, driving prices of locally consumed staple fish through the roof.

Several marine experts have been warning the Goa government about how pollution near Goa’s river mouths and in the waters off the state’s coastline as well as over-fishing could create a fish famine in the state, which is as popular for tourism as it is for seafood.

According to fisheries department statistics, while 80,849 tonnes of sardines were caught in 2014, the catch dropped to 57,270 tonnes in 2015 — and to a mere 6,481 tonnes in 2016.

The same is the case with another staple — mackerel. In 2013, 12,994 tonnes were caught; the figure dropped to 10,308 tonnes in 2014 and further slipped to 10,876 tonnes in 2015. In 2016, just 3,908 tonnes were harvested.

Other species like the cuttle fish or the silver belly have also shown a sharp drop in haul. (IANS)

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