Kochi: The fishing and seafood industry in Kochi has come to a standstill with many harbours and fish-landing centres along the district’s coast shutting down in the wake of Covid-19. Munambam harbour was shut down indefinitely from Tuesday noon onwards. Boat owners from Thoppumpady, Kalamukku, Murukkinpadam and Chellanam have decided to stop fishing until a further notice.
The decision comes after the health and fisheries department’s advisory to harbour managers and boat owners to stop auction of fish to avoid crowding of people to ensure social distancing.
Many of the fish peeling centres that provide the raw material to the seafood processing industry have closed down. “The seafood export industry is facing one of its worst dips in the recent past with seafood exports coming down to less than 40% of normal business due to lockdowns in many countries. With harbours closing down, seafood processing will be affected severely. Peeling centres run by private contractors have already shut,” said Seafood Exporters Association of India (SEAI) regional president Alex K Ninan.
“Many fishing boats in Kochi do not have enough employees due to Covid-19 fear. Most employees are from other states and many of them have already returned to their home states. Moreover, the harbours and fishing centres are frequented by people from different parts and there is high chance of physical contact between them. With seafood exports witnessing a dip, it is pointless to conduct operations ignoring the spread of infection. Around 300 boats here will stop functioning now,” said P P Gireesh, chairman, boat owners association, Munambam.
Kerala Matsyathozhilali Aikya Vedi said that the export of seafood has drastically declined over the past one month. “Only two or three reefer containers are now leaving Vallarapadam container terminal instead of 50 daily. With all fishermen deciding not to go to work, their livelihood is stopped. The government should initiate some measures to help fishermen to overcome this,” said Aikya Vedi state president Charles George.
A senior fisheries official said that strict guidelines have been issued to all fish landing centres and harbours in Ernakulam to ensure hygiene and social distancing. “But people managing harbour say that it is difficult to implement them. So they have stopped the operations,” said the official.