Although there is no ‘What first, chicken or the egg’ kind of dilemma in case of fish, Goa has been facing another kind of predicament linked to fish, and it is related to the inability of the fishermen to fulfil the increasing demand for fish from the tourism and hospitality industry.
Admitting this situation, the director of fisheries, Mr N V Verlekar said that over the years, the annual fish catch in Goa has stabilised between 80,000 and 90,000 metric tonnes, with maximum sustainable yield (MSY) standing at 85,000 metric tonnes. “Presently, even though the annual fish haul is sufficient to take care of the consumption at the domestic level, the increasing demand for fish from hotels, restaurants and smaller eateries is hard to be fulfilled,” he noted.
Speaking further, Mr Verlekar said that tourists arriving in Goa come fully prepared to taste Goan dishes prepared from fish such as fish curry and so on. “And even with the increasing demand for fish, we cannot allow additional fishing activities due to the fear of over harvesting,” he pointed out.
More than 90 per cent of the Goan population is fish-eating population, with per capita fish consumption of 7.4 kg compared to the national average of 5 kg and recommended average of 11 kg. Incidentally, Goa has 1,150 registered fishing trawlers, with 825 of them in operation. There has been, however, no increase in their number, as the government has decided to freeze the number of fishing trawlers at 1,150. Nevertheless, permissions are given for their replacement.
According to the latest figures supplied by the department of fisheries, during the first three quarters of this year – from January to September 2012 – altogether 62,252 metric tonnes of marine fish has been caught. The last quarter of the year – with the months of October/ November/ December supposed to be the peak season for fish haul – is expected to fetch around 25,000 metric tonnes of fish, thus just crossing the MSY. The figures also inform that this year, the months of April and May were able to register marine fish catch of over 10,000 metric tonnes, that is, 10,293 metric tonnes and 10,375 metric tonnes, respectively.
The department of fisheries figures also indicate that only once, that is in the year 2005, Goa had a fish haul of over one lakh metric tonnes; to be precise 1,03,087 metric tonnes. It then steadily went down with the year 2006 registering 96,326 metric tonnes, while 2007 recording 91,185 metric tonnes of fish catch. It further slid to 88,771 metric tonnes in 2008 and 80,687 metric tonnes in 2009. By 2011, fish haul in the state had steadied at 86,185 metric tonnes.
The fish export figures from Marine Products Export Development Authority inform that in the year 2007, Goa exported 17,531 metric tonnes of fish, followed by 21,434 metric tonnes of fish exported in 2008. In 2009, the state’s exports of marine fish shot up to 27,009 metric tonnes.
Today, Goa exports between 25 and 30 per cent of its annual marine fish haul, which is between 21,500 metric tonnes and 25,800 metric tonnes of fish. The marine fish exported from Goa is done through the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT), and the fish exported from the state includes the catch made not only in Goa, but also from the neighbouring states.
The remaining 60,000 metric tonnes of marine fish caught annually is consumed at the local level. Although there are no accurate figures about the details of this consumption, it is generally believed that around 35,000 metric tonnes of marine fish is consumed on the domestic front, while 25,000 metric tonnes of the fish is consumed in the hotels, restaurants and eateries. The local population also consumes inland fish catch. However, the hotels, restaurants and eateries require more than 25,000 metric tonnes of fish and some of them import fish from outside the state.
Though over 20 varieties of fish are being caught along the Goan coastline; mackerals (bangdo), oil sardines (tarlo) and prawns (sungtam) are three varieties which are in much demand as also caught in large quantity. The varieties of fish that are found in inland waters are prawns (sungtam), clams (tisrio), mullets (shevto), crabs (kurlio) and pearl spot (kalunder), and are also on the list of favourites of the tourists.
Goa has altogether 71 fishing villages and 22,000 fishermen, and fishermen from 8 talukas are involved in fishing activities. The statistics point out that fishermen from 42 villages are involved in marine fishing. Presently, Goa has 755 country crafts, 1,963 non-motorised country crafts and 6,463 nets, besides the motorised boats including fishing trawlers. There are six jetties in Goa – two in North and four in South – and a total of 55 fish landing centres. [NT]