"The department was trying to get the fishermen to adopt alternative livelihoods, added Biswas."
By Sahana Ghosh

Kolkata, July 6 - Anomalous warm ocean currents in the Pacific - attributed to the El Nino phenomenon - could be one of the reasons why the famed hilsa fish - or ilish as it is known among Bengalis - might remain in short supply for the connoisseurs of the prized marine food.

Come monsoon, and mounds of hilsa, the silvery tropical fish savoured in India and Bangladesh as the quintessential Bengali delicacy, can be spotted in the markets of the state. However, this year with experts predicting over 50 percent less rainfall, gourmands will have to wait.

Not much of Ilish are entering the sweet water right now. El Nino could be one of the factors as well as other environmental gradients that act as cues for the fish to come, Saptarshi Biswas, a scientist at the state government's directorate of fisheries, told IANS.

We are expecting an increased volume in August-September, he said.

Hilsa, like salmon, migrates from seawater to fresh water to breed. After laying its eggs, the fish dies and the newly-hatched ones go back to the sea and repeat the cycle.

Rainfall brings about a mix between salt water and fresh water that creates temperature difference, a necessary criterion for fish to migrate to these pockets, but because of the long dry spell the ambient environment will not be available to them, Tuhin Ghosh, joint director, School of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University, told IANS.

Biswas said officials were also trying to curb the indiscriminate fishing of the juveniles and the brood fish (mature fish used for producing eggs or spawners).

He said the fishing gear used by the fishermen also trap juveniles.

We have imposed certain restrictions on fishing gear but since the juveniles sell at a lower price than the mature ones, they are in more demand. Therefore, for the fishermen, catching juveniles is more profitable, he said.

The department was trying to get the fishermen to adopt alternative livelihoods, added Biswas.

(Sahana Ghosh can be contacted at [email protected])


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