VISAKHAPATNAM: Fishing activities in the state are bracing for a setback as a majority of labourers employed at ice plants have gone back to their hometowns in other states during the ongoing lockdown . Even as ice production falls, owners at the plants are uncertain when workers will come back and resume operations.
“Normally, labourers take a break during this time of the year as fishing activities are few because of the mandatory ban on fishing from mid-March to mid-June. This year the fishermen want to venture out from the first week of June. But because of the lockdown our labourers have been stranded since March and have just returned to their hometowns. We are not sure whether they would come back immediately,” Raju Vasupalli, whose family runs an ice plant in Visakhapatnam fishing harbour, told TOI.
In light of the pandemic, the Union ministry of fisheries issued a notification on May 24, reducing the 63-day mandatory fishing ban period to 47 days this year. The notification states that this year fishermen can venture out into the sea from June 1. Fishermen and those involved with fisheries in the state have welcomed the move in view of the slump in fishing activities since March, a crucial period just before the ban is imposed.
“Fish stocks available with wholesalers are very low and soon there will be a shortfall of marine fishes in the markets. The government’s decision to lift the ban around 15 days before the usual ban period ends would have been very effective to address the crisis. But now there is a new problem. If the ice plants can’t meet the demand, fishermen can’t venture out into the sea,” said Arijili Dasu, secretary of the district Fishermen’s Youth Welfare Association.
While Visakhapatnam fishing harbour has six ice plants, there are around 40 ice plants in the state that supply ice exclusively for fishing activities. Each ice plant supplies around 30 tonnes of ice per day, every alternate day. A block each sells at Rs 200 and seven blocks together weigh around one tonne. The rate for a tonne of ice is around Rs 1,400. Each boat carries five to seven tonnes of ice whenever it ventures out to sea.