PARADIP: With the Fisheries Department banning production of dry fish in Paradip, womenfolk of fishermen community have been left high and dry. The ban came into force on September 1. Fisher women, who have been producing dry fish for several years, are now left with no other means to eke out living except selling the fresh catch. Earlier, traders and producers of dry fish, locally known as ‘Sukhua’, in Jagatsinghpur district had been warned against use of chemicals in drying the fish by the Fisheries Department. Apparently, the department had found that most of the dry fish in the market is laced with toxic chemicals that can cause killer diseases like gastric ulcer and gastritis in violation of the Orissa Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1982.
Following allegations of use of chemicals, the Fisheries Department conducted raids on dry fish production and sale units and seized samples for laboratory test. During test, it was found that toxic substances were indiscriminately used to preserve the fish and prevent its decomposition during the drying process, particularly in monsoon.
As far as the process is concerned, the fishermen sprinkle salt on the fresh fish and let it soak for a day. They then wash the fish with water and string them up in lines along the beach to dry. Sources said fishermen and dry fish traders process the fish by dipping them in buckets of water that have toxic drugs dissolved in it. Paradip is one of the State’s major dry fish production centre after Huma-Sunakhala in Ganjam district. More than 1500 families of Telugu and Bengali communities have been operating dry fish business in Paradip for generations and around 500 families are indirectly employed in this trade. Around 4,000 tonne of dry fish are produced in the area every year. The demand of dry fish is very high in Rourkela, Angul, Sambalpur, Bargarh and some parts of Western Odisha.
Assistant Director of Fisheries (Marine), Kujang, Biraja PrasannaMohapatra said awareness drives are being conducted among consumers and members of fishermen community against consumption and production of dry fish. Action will be taken against people violating the Orissa Marine Fishing Regulation Act, 1982, he added.