KOCHI: In a first of its kind intervention to sustain the livelihood of local fishermen the Lakshadweep administration has roped in a private partner for export of premium quality tuna fish to Japan.
The first trial consignment of chilled tuna was transported from Agatti airport to Bengaluru on Saturday. With this successful daily trial run, the company is planning to expand the trade with more quantities chartering exclusive cargo flight with 5 tonne capacity daily from Agatti to Bengaluru for subsequent transport to Tokyo in Japan. This chartered flight will bring essential commodities from Bengaluru to Agatti and return with tuna fish, said Lakshadweep collector S Askar Ali.
With more than 20,000 sq. km territorial water, Lakshadweep has the highest potential for tuna fishing. More than 60 per cent of the population is completely dependent on fishing for livelihood. Of the 12,500 households in the islands, there are around 7,197 registered fishermen operating 2158 mechanised and motorised fishing boats. As per the data available with the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), Lakshadweep has the potential to export 1 lakh tonnes of tuna.
Lakshadweep is a completely organic territory devoid of any polluting industries and the marine resources are free from harmful contaminants. The Lakshadweep tunas are known to have the least histamine content mainly due to the traditional hook and line fishing methods and short fishing durations.
The Lakshadweep does not have basic infrastructure facilities including an ice plant and cold storage to process fish. The administration had recently initiated steps to create basic infrastructure to promote fish export. Three major containerised ice plants with German Technology were installed in Minicoy, Agatti and Amini Islands. Around 20-tonne cold storage facilities were provided on various Islands.
The Lakshadweep administration had recently conducted a mega Lakshadweep Tuna Exporters and Stakeholders meet in Kochi in which around 50 exporters from Kerala, Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Goa participated. Sashmi Food Private Ltd, a Bengaluru based with a European Union approved export plant expressed its willingness to export fresh tuna directly to Japan as Air cargo. The company has experience in exporting fish products to Japan, said the Collector.
The company's marketing head and his team had arrived in Agatti during the third week of May and imparted training to fishermen and their Cooperative Society on hygienic fish handling practices and transportation of packaging materials to Agatti. The administration had deputed a team of senior officers of the Fisheries department to facilitate the entire process at Agatti Island.
The Company held negotiations with air carriers for a subsidised rate for transportation of fish from Agatti airport to Bengaluru during monsoon as the number of passengers travelling will be minimal due to the closure of tourism. The administration is planning to facilitate full-fledged tuna export both by air cargo and through vessels directly operated by selected export companies after September 15. For this, an agreement will be signed involving the fishermen cooperative societies and the exporters. These initiatives will provide better price and open new markets for the premium Lakshadweep tunas creating better employment and livelihood opportunities, said collector Askar Ali.