Farmed marine products, shrimps in particular, are increasingly turning out to be the money-spinner in the seafood export basket even as sea catch shows a decline. As the demand for cultured shrimps has increased, the centre of seafood activity has shifted to the eastern coast like Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, where aquaculture farms are concentrated. Earlier, Kerala used to be the focus of attention as shrimps caught from the sea ruled the roost. But now, the share of farmed shrimps, vannamei especially, has gone up considerably while sea catch has remained more or less stagnant. In 2013-14, frozen shrimps accounted for 64% of the total value of `30,213 crore realised from marine products export. Of this, the share of cultured shrimp was 73%. Kerala hardly has any aquaculture farms. “Shrimp farming provides alternative employment and eases the pressure on boats. So, in a way, it is good,“ says Anwar Hashim, managing director of Abad Fisheries, a major exporting firm. Curiously, sardines and mackerels which account for the majority of the fish caught from the sea, fetch lower prices abroad than in the local market. One kg of sardines sells at 65 to 70 cents in overseas market. In India, it gets a price of `60 to 80 per kg, according to him. Squids and cuttle fishes caught from the sea do get good prices, but their demand and price are less than that of shrimps. The document released by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, reveals that there has been 4% dip in the capture fish landings off the Indian coast in 2013 at 3.78 million tonne. The catch of Indian oil sardines fell by 1.2 lakh tonne. But the institute attributes the decline more to the reduction in the fishing days because of inclement weather in places like Kerala. The fishermen now want the annual ban on trawling for 45 days to be extended to 60 days to protect the fish juveniles in the sea. “We have asked for two months ban in separate periods. One month ban during the monsoon season and another during October - November period when the spawning among the cuttle fish, squid and prawns increases,“ said Joseph Xavier Kalappurakkal, general secretary of Kerala State Mechanised Boat Operators Association. However, the exporting community feels it will not be practical as there could be delay in supply, as usually the boats go for repair during trawling ban period and may take some time to enter active operation.
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