CHENNAI: Untangling the fishing net on a hot Monday afternoon, Bala Murugan along with two other fishermen from Nadukuppam, a hamlet near Marina shores, were getting ready for a sail in the hope of getting a good catch.
They were not preparing to cast the net for fish, but for Cephalopods.
With fish going out of flavour following the recent oil spill, fishermen have found a living in Cephalopods, the invertebrate group that includes squid, octopuses and cuttlefish which have a good export market.
However, catching Cephalopods of export quality does not come without an extra yard of effort. The fishermen have to travel a greater distance into the sea to net fully-grown varieties. Bala Murugan said his attempt to find squid or other species in shallow waters found no success.
“Other fishermen said there is a good number of Kanawa (squid) that would easily fetch Rs 300 per kg. I purchased a new net designed for squid fishing but found no luck in the first attempt. What I got were four kg of trash and thorny shells. I was advised to cast the net in deeper waters and will be sailing out in the evening,” he said.
Another fisherman, Venkatesan, who has managed to bag 20 kg squid, said it made sense to avoid catching fish and focus on netting Cephalopods although knowing fully that the quantum of catch would be less. “Even though we get Rs 5,000 worth fish only one-fifth of it is getting sold. Although it was a Sunday yesterday, the sales remained indifferent. Cephalopods are fetching us guaranteed return. They weigh between 500 gm to 2.5 kg and picked up for Rs 300 per kg,” he said.
Despite the State fisheries department and the government declaring that fish was safe to consume, the domestic markets are yet to see the sunshine forcing the fishermen to look for alternatives. In Nadukuppam, out of 150 boats hardly 10 boats ventured into the sea for fishing on Monday.
Meanwhile, P Laxmilatha, scientist-in-charge, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute said that preliminary studies were underway and the estimation of the economic loss to fishermen due to the oil spill would take some time.