A carnival sans fish in Goa?

 Fish gets scarce in Goa over the weekend…

By Martin De Souza – Goa Newz Network

 

Thanks to the long, extended weekend, Goa had hordes of tourists pouring in from neighbouring states like Maharahstra and Karnataka. However, many of the tourists who wanted to taste some of the sea food which Goa is internationally famous for, were disappointed and some of them even returned home angry. Lobsters, king crabs, tiger prawns, king fish  pomfrets and other expensive fish were not available in most of the small local beach side restaurants and shacks on Sunday.

If the Goa State government does not act quickly and resolve the issue, the strike will impact the restaurant business in Goa during the Carnival, says Salvador De Costa convener of the SpeakGoa movement who is contemplating submitting a memo on behalf of the restaurant owners in North Goa to chief minister Manohar Parrikar and the Tourism Minister. “Goa is expecting at least 10 lakh visitors during the Carnival this year and with an acute shortage of sea food, prices of other food items are also likely to rise exponentially as wholesalers want to make maximum profit, opined De Costa.

Some of the restaurants which did have fish in stock were charging double the regular rates quoting the ongoing trawler strike and fish shortage in Goa.  Trawlers from the neighbouring states of Maharashtra and Karnataka have also joined the strike causing a huge shortfall of fish in the market for local consumption. Martins Corner at BetalbatimBeach in south Goa hiked their rates by about 15 to 25 per cent over the weekend for sea food items. Guests who went to Martins over the weekend were disappointed since their favourite seafood was not available, according to a regular at the famous restaurant. Café Ritz – the small eatery at Panaji known for its fish thali had only a few options to offer – on a normal day they have at least 25-30 varieties of sea food. This weekend the menu was down to 15-18 sea food options. Other smaller restaurants were serving “cold-storage fish” and even the quantity was much lesser.” Says Cajetan Britto of Brittos – the very popular sea food restaurant at BagaBeach, “We ran short of certain varieties of sea food including crabs and pomfrets over the weekend. However, since Brittos is primarily a sea food restaurant and we buy fish in huge quantities, we had options to offer our guests. But smaller restaurants were badly affected. The price of sea food also has gone up and even the bigger restaurants felt the pinch over the weekend. Many restaurants like Brittos have a fixed price menu which is applicable throughout the year. We cannot change the price and unlike other restaurants who charge on a daily basis we could not hike our rates.”

The trawler owners are angered by the diesel price hike coupled with the re-classification of fishing as an industrial activity – earlier fishing was classified as an agricultural activity and was eligible for various subsidies including a lower rate on diesel.

With the new classification in force trawler owners now have to shell out Rs 61.35 for a litre of diesel — an increase of a whopping Rs 11 per litre from the earlier subsidized price. Trawlers in Goa have announced an indefinite strike from January 29 if the price of diesel is not reduced. With the state government not taking notice of the trawler owners’ demands, fish may soon vanish from the menu of most Goans in the coming days. The shortfall in the supply of fish has had a collateral effect on vegetables and milk products which also saw a small increase in price. Many tourists from Maharashtra and north India were shocked at the price of fish and decided to go in for a vegetarian or chicken menu thus increasing the demand for vegetables and chicken over the weekend.

Says a Micheal Fernandes (name changed on request) a restaurant owner in the prime tourist area of Candolim in North Goa  “The price of seafood has gone up almost three times for some varieties of sea food. Even the normal fare has doubled. There is no fish is the market and those who venture out into the sea charge double for whatever they have got.” Fernandes owns one shack and two restaurants in North Goa and says he may have to take fish off his menu completely in a day or two.  Goa has approximately 1,200-1300 trawlers which net nearly 70-75 million tonnes of fish annually. Most trawlers at the major fishing jetties at Cutbona, Betim and Chapora were anchored and did not venture out into the sea, says Fernandes blaming the local government for inaction in the matter.

(Martin De Souza is a senior journalist based in Goa) 

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