A 61-day ban on fishing in the seas, at estuaries, and even in the river has dried up the supply line of fish across the city markets, pushing the prices through the ceiling. However, higher prices of fish are enticing fishermen to do fishing clandestinely, endangering the fish and casting a shadow of uncertainty on future fishing.

Prices of some fish varieties rose nearly 100% in a span of just 25 days. “The prices are expected to rise further as we have nearly a month to go to resume fishing,” said Bijon Maity of West Bengal Fishermen’s Association.

Fishing has been banned across rivers and in the seas and estuaries from April 15 to June 14 as it is the spawning period for fish. “This is the time when juvenile fish comes out of eggs and rapidly grow in size. Any attempt of fishing jeopardizes the entire process of spawning. This is how we lost Hilsa in Indian estuaries,” said Jayanta Kumar Pradhan, assistant director of fisheries.

Fisheries department officers urged people to consume less fish during this period of time to have fish round the year. “This time, we have taken a strong stance. If anyone is caught fishing, the boat will be seized and licence will be revoked,” added Pradhan.

Maity said, “We have a lot to learn from our neighbour Bangladesh. The ban means a ban. There will be no fishing at all. Both government surveillance and stringent punishment against an offender act as a very good deterrent against catching juvenile fish. This is how Bangladesh still has Hilsa at the estuaries of Padma, but we don’t have it at the estuaries of the Ganges.”

“We did not know about the ban. Thus we kept buying fish, paying through our nose. If we knew about the ban, we could have looked for alternatives of fish. But it is not only fish, the prices of all major protein sources rose sharply. We are thus consuming more eggs. But you know without fish, our platter tastes insipid,” said Sayantan Ghosh, a librarian.

“The hilsa coming from Diamond Harbour is of 700 grams to 1 kg, costing Rs 1,000 to 1,700 per kg. Prices of other fish have also risen significantly in the last 15-20 days. Because of real estate developments, we have already lost a very large number of ponds. Thus the supply of fish from the ponds fails to plug the critical gap between demand and supply” said Amar Das, a fish vendor at Lake Market.

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