Two weeks after two ships, MT Dawn Kanchipuram and MT BW Maple, collided off the Kamarajar Port leading to the spill, the fall in fish price due to low demand has deterred many fishermen from venturing into the sea.
Kalai, a fisherman from Palagai Thotikuppam, which is located near the RK Nagar site of oil spill, said there is hardly any demand for fish, as people are afraid to consume seafood, fearing ill-effects of oil.
“The clean-up has been completed, but the damage to our livelihood continues. The fish prices have dropped drastically. Because of this, many of us are not venturing into the sea,” said Kalai, who was one of the volunteers during the early days of the clean-up operations. C Dilli, President of Nettukuppam Fishermen’s Cooperative Society, said though the fish market was functioning, there were hardly any takers.
“The prices are still low even so many days after the oil spill. This is despite all the efforts taken to reassure the public that the fish is safe to eat. We go deep into the sea for our catch and these areas have not been affected by the spill,” he said.
Srinivas R, another fisherman from Kattukuppam, said the clean-up of the rocks is still underway. “The situation has come to such a stage where the fishermen are buying whatever is caught, just to keep the business going. The sales have been dismal. There is no point in venturing into the sea when people are not willing to buy seafood,” he rued.
As seafood sales continued to plummet, fishing communities have taken the initiative to demonstrate the safety of their wares by cooking the catch of the day and offering it to the public. The Fisheries Department, led by Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar, too did the same, a few days after the oil spill, asserting that samples sent for testing declared the fish safe for consumption.
Following the oil spill, a claims desk has been set up to reimburse the various agencies, who had conducted clean-up operations as well as those whose livelihoods were affected.