The Kerala government has partially lifted restrictions on fishing by allowing country crafts to venture into the sea from April 4. However, the current restrictions will be in place for Kasargod, given the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the district.

The State Fisheries Minister, J Mercykutty Amma, said that trawlers and fishing using gill nets and boat seine would be banned. The fishermen have been allowed to sell their catch without going for open auction. However, the price of fish will be decided by the Harbour Management Societies headed by respective District Collectors.

The Fisheries Department has developed an IT application to enable hassle-free selling of fish through advanced booking. Vehicles will be allowed entry into the harbour for the purchase of fish on the basis of the booking. Overcrowding will not be allowed in fishing harbours and fish landing centres.

For those engaged in small business, market points will be worked out and Matsyafed will make available fish at these points. But, the quantity of fish needed will have to be intimated to the society in advance. The fish markets will function from 7 am to 11 am only.

Financial support sought

Meanwhile, Charles George, State president, Kerala Matsya Thozhilali Aikyavedi, has demanded an urgent financial package for the fishing community, as over seven lakh people directly depending on the sector. As the fisher-folk has decided not to venture into the sea during the lockdown period, he said such a package is utmost significant for the crisis-ridden sector. The initial studies conducted by fisheries research institutes say that the coronavirus has had its toll on the sector in the State, with an estimated loss of ₹2,000 crore and the figure would reach ₹3,500 crore by April 14, he added.

Considering the declining catch, he said the sector had already demanded the government to announce a “fish famine package” by providing an allowance of ₹5,000 per month to fishermen families. However, the government has not announced any measures in the Budget. The sardine catch dropped to around 77,000 tonnes in 2017 from 3.99 lakh in 2012 and the situation warrants support to the fishermen from the authorities.