What social distancing? Crowds flock at Nagai fishing harbour

Huge crowds gathered on Thursday at Nagapattinam fishing harbour without observing social distancing, risking the spread of coronavirus.

Published: 26th June 2020 12:30 PM  |   Last Updated: 26th June 2020 12:30 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

NAGAPATTINAM: Huge crowds gathered on Thursday at Nagapattinam fishing harbour without observing social distancing, risking the spread of coronavirus. Mechanised boat fishers who went to sea on Monday have started returning to shore. There were nightmarish scenes at the harbour as hundreds gathered to unload, move, procure and sell fish without maintaining social distancing.

All returning boats were allowed to land. Only 40 boats were permitted by the local panchayat to open their holds to take out fish for sale. "The local fisher panchayat (Akkaraipettai) took the responsibility of giving tokens for open sales to 40 boats. Even so, there was a huge crowd. We have to decide the next course of action." said R Amal Xavier, Joint Director, Fisheries department, Nagapattinam, It is normal practice for boat owners to turn up to see the amount of catch when their fishers return to shore. Fish workers, both men and women, would start unloading the fish from the holds to the dock floor. The workers would start loading them on to trucks waiting at the harbour. Some small-scale sellers sell fish to locals around the harbour. These activities make the harbour typically congested on a normal day. However, with the number of COVID-19 cases in Nagapattinam on the rise, crowds at the harbour are no longer welcome. On Thursday, it appeared half the people were not wearing masks and those that did, were not using them properly.

Fishers could not catch eagerly awaited squids (kanavaai) and prawns (eraal), which attract export orders. "We are happy with the variety of fish we have caught, but we did not get the best prices. However, we still managed to turn a profit,," said S Kalaiyamurthy, a boat owner.

Fishers caught smaller varieties like ribbon fish (vaalai), silver belly (surupanan kaarai), snapper (kendal), perch (kadaikai), little trevally (podi paarai), mackerel kaanankeluthi) and larger fish like barracuda (seela). As there is demand for these fish locally, buyers swarmed the harbour. Their presence, along with workers at the harbour, led to severe crowding. .

The congestion at the harbour was also attributed to the 'no-show' of traders for eight oats. All the sales started happening around the 32 boats. "As the government has cut off transportation between districts, many trucks are stranded in neighbouring districts," said S Mohandas, a boat owner fisher representative.

Dr M Shalini, consultant epidemiologist, Meenakshi Multi Speciality Hospital, Thanjavur, said, "Such unregulated trade was the reason behind the Koyambedu disaster in Chennai. Public movements, activities and the berthing of boats must be regulated to avoid the spread of the virus. People must be educated about washing their hands more often at the harbour."



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