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Deep sea fishermen in troubled waters after dip in overseas markets due to virus

Even if the government relaxes the entire lockdown norms, it may take at least a year for the seafood export sector to return to normal or pre-lockdown levels as most international buyers are not showing any interest at present to purchase.

Deep sea fishermen in troubled waters after dip in overseas markets due to virus
Varieties of fish exported from India; Mechansied boats anchored at Colachel harbour (right)


This uncertain trend caused by the coronavirus might impact the livelihood of around 40 lakh fishermen who depend on deep sea fishing in Tamil Nadu for seafood exports trade.

According to sources, the total seafood export in 2018-19 stood at US$ 6.7 billion with major buyers coming from China, Japan, Singapore, several western countries, including Spain, Italy, France, Germany, the UK, the US and a few from Middle East countries also. According to the Marine Products Export Development Authorities (MPEDA), India mainly exports varieties like Crustaceans (Crab, Shrimp, Prawn and Lobster), Cephalopods (Cuttle fish, Squid and Octopus), Pomfret variety, Seer fish, blue and yellow fin Tuna, Snapper, Reef Cod and Red Grouper that are found in both eastern and western waters. Of the total catch of these varieties, more than 60 per cent are exported.

“While seer fish, snapper and reef cod are available throughout the year here, Crustaceans varieties can be netted only for eight months with peak season being August to September. At the same time, Cephalopods and tuna are available for four months in a year and these have high demand in European, South Asian and Middle East countries”, Dr G Immanuel, Marine Food Processing and Seafood Safety Expert and Director, Department of PG Extension Centre of MS University, told DTNext. Immanuel claimed that during the peak season of tuna, the COVID-19 lockdown crippled the activities of fishermen.

Meanwhile, mechanised boat owners expressed anguish that without proper information from the merchants, fishing was meaningless as they would be forced to spend somewhere between Rs 75,000 and Rs 1 lakh per day including fuel and food. “If we get a catch to the tune of Rs 2 lakh, we can meet the expenses, otherwise we will incur a huge loss which we cannot withstand at this time of crisis,” said C Bernard, a fishnet specialist from Colachel in Kanniyakumari. Thanjavur district Mechanised Boat Owners Association General Secretary A Thajudeen noted that the fishermen are in trouble owing to low export demand.

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