Debasish Chattopadhyay ; Kolkata , May 2 : Starting from the northern part to southernmost part of the state the fishing communities are extremely happy as the central government has exempted the fishing activities from the purview of the lockdown. This feel good factor is applicable not only for this state but for the entire nation. They expressed sigh of relief when they came to know that Union government has exempted the operations of the fishing or marine aquaculture industry, including harvesting, sale and marketing activities, from the purview of the ongoing nationwide lockdown. It may be mentioned that on 11April in a communication to the Chief Secretaries of all states and Union territories, the Union Home Ministry informed that “Operations of the fishing (marine)/ aquaculture industry, including feeding and maintenance, harvesting, processing, packaging, cold chain, sale and marketing; hatcheries, feed plants, commercial aquaria, movement of fish/ shrimp and fish products, commercial aquaria, movement of fish/ shrimp and fish products, fish seed/ feed and workers for all these activities were exempted from the lockdown.”

Pisci culture or fish culture included under the broad term ‘Aquaculture’ plays an important role in the economy of West Bengal. It helps in augmenting food supply, generating employment, raising nutritional level and earning revenue for the people attached with the fishing activities. Some Species that are cultured in the state are Indian Major Carp (Rohu, Catla & Mrigal), Exotic Carp, Tilapia, Tiger Prawn, Golda, Bhagon, Bhetki, Pabda, Boroli etc in all twenty one varieties.

After the announcement of the relaxation of restriction in most of the districts fisheries department have started their regular activities. In North Dinajpur district the only government fish hatchery is in Keutan of Kaliagunj block. The spawn produced in this hatchery is in high demand for its superior quality. The demand is not only within the district but in the neighboring districts and states also. Fishermen even come from Nepal to purchase those spawn. The officials of the hatchery have informed that after the relaxation they have already started generating revenue by selling spawn to the cultivators. Interestingly these spawn is not sold by weight but in a measuring bowl. Each measuring bowl of 100 cc contains around 1 lakh spawn and costs 710 – 810 rupees depending upon the nature of the fish. The hatchery has already earned around Rs.90 thousand by selling their product in the month of April. This spawn of Indian major carp will grow to become fry which will become fingerlings and then to table fish. Large number of employees and other associated with this hatchery at have started to earn their living after the exemption. The Junior Technical Officer of Fisheries of West Bengal Comprehensive Area Development Corporation has informed that the production of spawn and fry aare now gearing up after this decision of exemption. Their now main objective is to increase the production as much as possible so that the loss incurred due to lockdown could be minimized.

In Hooghly also the hatcheries have started producing spawn. Out of nine hatcheries run by the fisherman cooperative societies six have started functioning. As per the information received from these cooperatives as of now they are not producing the ornamental fishes but giving stress on production of major carps. The office bearers of these cooperatives said that the fisheries department of the state is providing all technical support in this crucial time so that they could turn around from the setback and run their business. The organization is hopeful that they would be able to minimize the loss which they incurred during lockdown. The fishermen have started to catch fish and sell directly to the customers. The vendors are also selling their products in mobile van. The most appealing part is even in this overall restricted situation these people are showing humanity to the fullest extent and providing fish to the poor people absolutely free of cost.
The production in other districts has also started gearing up to meet the demand. As per the information available in its website State Fisheries Development Corporation Limited is amplifying its horizon from one sector to another like production, processing, raw, frozen and dry fish marketing by refrigerated vending van which is enhancing the revenue generation of the Corporation.