For Josna, Gratus and Judy and several other fish farmers, who invested in cage culture, it was a death knell.

Overnight their dreams were crushed along with the death of all the fishes in their cages. The losses run from Rs 15 to Rs 20 lakh. Along with it, they also have to deal with the decayed fish in their cages, cleaning and filtering of the cage equipment and disposal of all the trash fish stored in the ice boxes as feed for the fish.

“All the fish in our 13 cages, including two small ones, are dead. We had about 13,000 fishlings of sea bass and 15,000 pearlspot in Feb targeting a Dec harvest. Our total loss would be around Rs 15 lakh because we have been giving trash fish as feed and need around 100 kg per day,” said Josna Gratus, cage fish farmer.

She and her husband Gratus are numb with shock as their entire investment has gone in just a few hours. “We have to clean and clear these dead fishes. The entire area is stinking.We also have huge quantities of stocked dead fish which serves as fish meal. Now we have to throw it all away,” she said.

The fisheries department officials who helped them set up the business visited them to assess the damages. “They have not told us anything about compensation,” she added.

But the bigger question is what next? “After the continuous fall in marine catches, we thought this could be a safe alternative,” says Judy C C, another fish farmer from Cheranalloor. “I have six cages and one embankment in which I put pearlspot and sea bass. The embankment harvest was due in June while I had put 1,500 fishlings of seabass and 4,000 pearlspot for a Dec-Jan harvest. My investment is about Rs 15 lakh. For one cage, it cost about Rs 50,000 and I spent about Rs 10,000 on fishlings,” he said. For Judy, the incident is even more hard hitting as he had started construction of a small house taking loan hoping to use the harvest profits for it.