Kendrapara (Odisha): Is the delicious hilsa on its way out?
A drastic drop in the catch of hilsa has brought into sharp focus the endangered state of the sea fish.
With the yield progressively gowing down over the years in Odisha, the price has shot through the roof making the fish out of reach of the common people.
A kg of hilsa is selling at as high as Rs 800-1,500 in Paradip and the adjoining market places.
The same story repeats in Bengal where a two to three kg variety of the fish has nearly vanished from the market - a trend witnessed for the last few years. Whatever small variety is available, it is prohibitively costly.
“The sea going fishermen dispose of their yield through auction in the Paradip fishing harbour,” said Sumant Kumar Biswal, chief of All-Odisha Tralwer Operators' Association.
While nearly 10 per cent catch is sold off in local markets of Paradip civil township, Kujang, Kendrapara and Jagatsinghpur, the bulk of the produce is despatched to Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, he said.
The hilsa from Paradip is also making its way to Sambalpur, Jharsuguda and Rourkela.
Unlike in the past, the supply to West Bengal, mainly Kolkata, has almost come to a grinding halt this year, solely due to the higher price, Biswal said.
On the other hand, traders from Vishakhapatnam, Srikakulam and Rajmahundry have shown interest in procuring hilsa from Paradip.
The supply to Andhra Pradesh is fetching good price too. While in the wholesale the hilsa fetches Rs 500-600 a kg in general, those despatched to Andhra Pradesh are sold at a premium of Rs 150 a kg, he said.
“The drop in the yield is unprecedented. Never before, the Hilsa catch had fallen to such a low level. Those who had pinned their hopes on bountiful catch are left thoroughly disappointed,” All-Odisha traditional Fish Workers, general secretary, Narayan Haldar, said.
Ramanranjan Rout, a Paradip-based Hilsa trader, said that there were reports of better yield in Dhamra (Bhadrak), Balaramgadi and Kansaphala fishing hubs in Balasore district.
The season for Hilsa catch extends from mid June upto first week of September. The emerging trends indicate that the catch is least likely to pick up in coming days, Tushar Sardar, a representative of local Hilsa traders, says.
Fishing in the sea takes up at least five to six days. Now-a-days, the crew hardly get five to 10 kg of Hilsa in one trip. Each trip on a mechanised vessel costs about Rs 10,000, including the fuel cost.
“The drop in the Hilsa yield is hitting us hard. We are compensating the Hilsa yield with other sea fish. That is forcing us to prolong our voyage. It is leading to additional cost of fuel,” a seagoing fishermen Bibhisana Das said.
Additional Fisheries Officer, Paradip, Ranjit Dash, said that the factors leading to low yield in Paradip were under the scrutiny of the Marine Fisheries Department.
The last year saw 229 metric tonnes of Hilsa yield from Paradip and adjoining Kendrapara district while the preceding year the produce was 348 tons. In 2010-11, yield was 522 MT.
This speaks the volume of drop in the yield, he said.
Hilsa is a sensitive fish species. And its breeding ground is mostly concentrated in the confluence of river and oceanic waters. After being bred in fresh water, the fish makes its way to sea water again by undertaking a return journey to confluence points.
Experts are of the view that increase in the pollution level along the water bodies connected to the Mahanadi river system, erratic monsoon and deficient rainfall has resulted in the disappearance of the itinerant hilsa.