THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Rumours harking back to the post-tsunami days, which raised questions about the quality of fish caught from sea, have returned in the backdrop of cyclone Ockhi that has resulted in the deaths of dozens of fishermen in Kerala.Though the scale of the Ockhi disaster can’t be compared to that of the deadly tsunami which struck the coast in 2004, many are reluctant to eat fish because of their fear that it could have been contaminated by dead bodies. It has come as a double whammy for fish sellers, who have been impacted by the poor availability of seafood.
“Sales have been badly affected as we are getting only a few fish for sales. The fear-mongering on the quality of seafood, which has no scientific basis, has worsened the situation,” said Matsyafed deputy general manager (commercial operations) P P Surendran.According to Surendran, the arrival of fish has dropped by 80 per cent. Thiruvananthapuram alone used to have a market for 300 tonnes of fish a day. Because the demand was always high, at least 40 tonnes of fish used to come from Tamil Nadu. With the cyclone affecting neighbouring coastal areas, the arrival of fish has reduced drastically.
After the tsunami, sales had been affected due to scare-mongering, even though the supply had become normal.“Fish eaters, especially those from non-coastal areas, are showing more reluctance. They look for options other than seafood,” said Jacob Joseph of Ocean Sea Foods.
Meanwhile, the situation has come as a boon for freshwater fish farmers. The prices of popular freshwater fish have seen a steady increase for the past three days. The wholesale price of pearlspot has increased by Rs 300 a kilogram to Rs 800. Even the popular Tilapia now costs Rs 50 more. The price of freshwater prawns caught by local fishermen has almost doubled to Rs 1,000. “There is good demand for freshwater fish because we can provide toxin-free produce to customers,” said pearlspot farmer S Vikraman Nair.