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Goa’s love affair with fish undeterred

Lockdown or inflation, fish is essential for Goans. And in Baga, anglers, traditional fishermen, and mechanised trawlers can be seen busy at work everyday
Danuska Da Gama | NT NETWORK

For a fish-eating population like Goa, their staple is a necessity; even if it means the prices have sky-rocketed during the lockdown due to scare supply and increased demand. And though at present, not many are getting their usual quota of fish delivered at the doorstep, there’s always a way of getting fish on the plate; whether it’s a slice of kingfish, or some ‘velleo’ (silver fish) or ‘kulleo’ (crabs). As long as there’s the Arabian Sea and some avid anglers and traditional fishermen, there will be fish somehow.
At Baga Beach after sunset, it’s a sight to behold. People are losing their patience staying indoors, but here, anglers spend hours with their fishing rod, patiently waiting to catch some fish.
Mohan Satoskar from Baga was a known footballer in the past having represented Goa at the national level. These days, he enjoys fishing at Baga. “If there wasn’t any restriction on movement, I would have been fishing in Maharashtra. It isn’t so hard to catch fish there and you get good fish. But the lockdown means I have to come here and fish,” he says, having managed to catch two medium sized snappers in about 30 minutes.
Patience, he says, is all one needs to become an angler, and in this way one can be assured of fresh fish on the plate. “Like this I know what I am eating and I am happy,” he says, adding that unlike in his time as a youth, today most youngsters don’t enjoy angling as a passion.
On the shore, on the other side of the creek, some fishermen are busy trying to catch some fish with their nets. Crossing over the bridge to the other side, we head over to have a chat.
A young lad Albert Gonsalves, along with other male members of his family is busy at work. The professional full time footballer and part time fisherman from Baga with Dempo SC is initially hesitant to talk about fishing during lockdown. But gradually he opens up. “The government has done a good job by declaring a nation-wide lockdown. We fishermen have in a way benefited from this lockdown. The beaches now wear a deserted look and it’s easier for us to catch fish without all the chaos and crowd,” he says.
Though the few fishermen here are at a distance from each other as they try to maintain social distance, soon a mechanised trawler ventures into the sea with over 10 people in the boat, throwing all caution to the wind.
Albert’s dad, 64-year-old Eugine Gonsalves who has been into fishing right from his younger days, points out that illegal fishing is rampant even during lockdown. “Despite there being regulations in place we can see many non-Goan fishermen carrying out LED fishing. The government should do something about this,” he says. The government should also encourage locals to take up fishing, he says, and deter non-Goans, who in his opinion are exploiting Goa.
The senior Gonsalves, who also runs a tourist boat business (shut during lockdown) to substantiate his income owing to many players in the fishing industry, stresses that if LED fishing wasn’t practiced, Goans would get a good catch. “Today, fish in Goa is expensive because most of the fish that is caught is exported outside the state; the rest makes it to our local markets,” he says.
“I am happy about the lockdown as Goa has got its old charm back. Big trawlers have been affecting small fisherman. Today the fishing sector has more non-Goans than Goans in it. If there are four Goans on a boat there will be 25 non-Goans. Back in the day, we used to get a good catch but now we sometimes return with nothing or very little fish, “he says, pointing towards boats that have returned with little catch.
The next day at sunrise, Goans and non Goans, across communities are seen waiting on the shore to buy their fresh catch. Prices range from 200 for five mackerels to300 for 25 ‘velleo’ (silver fish). But the prices haven’t stopped people from buying fish. “The catch is very less as mechanised fishing with LED lights and the presence of dolphins has resulted in less breeding and catch subsequently,” says Fatima Fernandes from Khobra Vaddo, Calangute, who is busy selling fish.
As E Gonsalves watches people buying fish, he says that the prevalence of mechanised fishing hasn’t deterred him in anyway as his traditional way of throwing the net gets him enough fish for the family. And though Baga has undergone change, he still makes it a point to spend the nights sleeping on the shore albeit without the cool breeze now. There are also a lot more mosquitoes unlike before. “I’ve had dreams thrice in the past, that the Goan beaches would be empty, with no locals or tourists, but I didn’t expect that it would become a reality,” he says. “Nature has a way of teaching people the hard way.”

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