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Life In A Pandemic: Bengal Faces Major Shortage of Hilsa Fish Ahead of Auspicious ‘Jamai Shashti’ Festival

Children covering themselves with umbrellas wade through a watery road in Kolkata

Children covering themselves with umbrellas wade through a watery road in Kolkata

The low supply has been attributed to low pressure and a ban which was imposed on fishing in the sea.

Kolkata is facing a major shortage of the city’s favorite fish- Hilsa while the demand continues to rise unabated ahead of the auspicious ‘Jamai Shahsti’ festival. Every year before the occasion the markets are filled with supplies of these fishes, but this year a massive shortage has been reported.

The decreased supply has been attributed to low pressure and the ban which was imposed on fishing in the sea. However, Bengal’s only hope is to get Hilsa from Odisha and some scattered supply from Myanmar.

Hilsa fishing is stopped before the onset of the monsoon across the country. This rule is observed for 50 days for the breeding of this fish. Fishermen were able to go to sea with trawlers from June 15 and that is why there has been a huge shortage of fish before Jamai Sasthi.

Cyclone Yaas, which lashed the coastal districts of the State on May 26, has dealt a severe blow to fishermen in East Midnapore and South 24-Parganas as only 40 per cent of trawlers could venture out to catch the prized Hilsa on Tuesday, the first day of government-permitted fishing this season. Sources estimate at least 30 per cent of trawlers will not be able to set sail this year owing to the disruption of lives and livelihoods of fishermen after the recent cyclone amid the pandemic.

The Hilsa that is being sold in the market now is not the famous Padma hilsa. The availability of the fish is also hit due to the ban by the Bangladesh government on the export of hilsa to India. Keeping in mind the demand in West Bengal, the Bangladesh government had last year allowed the export of 500 metric tonnes of hilsa during this time.

But now, some fish have come to the markets from Myanmar.

The Secretary of the Howrah Wholesale Market Organisation said 150 metric tonnes of Hilsa had been imported from Myanmar so far. The fish came from the Irrawaddy River there. He said that there is no such difference between Padma Hilsa and Irrawaddy Hilsa. The only difference is that the fish had to be covered in ice from Myanmar by ship due to the long distance. In comparison, Padma Hilsa is available fresh. As soon as the market opened on Tuesday, the price of Hilsa rose to Rs 1,100 per kg. Prices in the retail market are expected to rise from Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,500.

It is learned that about 1,800 trawlers went to the deep sea from Digha in search of fish on Monday night. But due to continuous lockdown and low pressure, many trawlers are not able to start their journey from Sundarbans.

Celebration of Jamai Sashti

Jamai Shashti is a day devoted to the ‘son-in-law’ of a family. This festival is predominantly celebrated in West Bengal and is regarded as an auspicious occasion, where a grand feast is also organised.

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first published:June 16, 2021, 15:15 IST