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Goa may ban fisheries exports, to check rising fish prices

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Panaji, Oct 29 Faced with a dropping fish catch and high prices of locally consumed fish, the Goa government may temporarily ban export of fish in order to stabilise prices, Fisheries Minister Vinod Palienkar has said.

Speaking to IANS during the inspection of the Chapora fort, 20 km from Panaji, Palienkar also said that subsidies for the fishing industries were not really helping to keep the price of fish within the common man’s reach and a majority of the haul was being exported.

“We are looking to ban exports. Goans do not get much fish to eat here. There is a need for a ban,” Palienkar told IANS.

Availability of cheap fish had been the poll plank of several political parties like like Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party and the Goa Forward ahead of the February Assembly polls.

The state is known for its sea food, which is sought after by the six million plus tourists who visit Goa every year.

Palienkar also said that his ministry doles out Rs 108 crore every year in subsidies to fishing trawler owners, but most of the fish caught was being diverted for exports.

“Most of the fish catch is being exported. How can we tolerate this when local Goans are not getting fish to eat and they have to shell our large sums of money to eat their fish thali at home?

“This government is thinking of cutting down the subsidy for large trawlers and the money saved will be diverted towards formation of a fisheries corporation,” Palienkar said.

Overkill of fish for export and to cater to the hospitality industry in the tourism-oriented state as well as rising sea temperatures has resulted in a fish famine of sorts in the waters off Goa, driving prices of locally consumed staple fish through the roof.

Several marine experts have been warning the Goa government about how pollution near Goa’s river mouths and in the waters off the state’s coastline as well as excessive fishing could create fish famine.

According to fisheries department statistics, while 80,849 tonnes of sardines were caught in 2014, this dropped to 57,270 tons in 2015. In 2016, this went down to 6,481 tonnes.

The same is the case with another staple fish called mackerel. While in 2013, 12,994 tonnes of mackerels were caught, in 2014 the figure dropped to 10,308 tonnes and further to 10,876 tonnes in 2015. In 2016, only 3,908 tonnes of mackerels were harvested.

Other species of fish like cuttle fish and silver belly have also shown a sharp drop in haul.(IANS)

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Goa blues: Demonetisation played party-pooper in India’s tourism capital

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In India’s holiday capital, demonetisation crashed the party for the tourism and travel industry, rocking the coastal state’s gravy-boat.

Goa’s tourism season begins in October as the winter sets in and winds up in March, with the advent of summer. Coming on November 8, demonetisation landed a sucker-punch bang in the middle of the lucrative season creating problems for travellers and other stakeholders.

“Foreigners saw a restriction on the flow of funds. Taxi fares shot up, making it difficult for them to travel within Goa. Indian tourists also faced restriction as far as funds were concerned,” Edgar Cotta, proprietor of Miramar Hotel in the state capital, told IANS.

He said major negative signs emerged when booking cancellations by foreigners and domestic tourists started happening.

Goa receives more than six million tourists every year with half a million visitors hailing from European countries who visit Goa to escape the harsh winter back home.

John D’Souza, head of operations for inbound travel for Eastbound Group, said that soon after the prime minister’s announcement, the situation turned desperate. “Czech and Slovakian travel agents were travelling to Goa for the first time. They did not even have money left for a coffee. And they were supposed to promote Goa and India as a holiday destination for tourists in their respective countries. Imagine what impression they carried back,” D’Souza told IANS.

The Goa Tourism department, however, does not agree with omnipresent tales of woe, insisting that demonetisation barely caused “initial hiccups” even as tourism inflow stabilised within one month.

“In fact, the distress of demonetisation did not really affect Goa in any way. Except for some initial hiccups due to cash-crunch, tourists continued to visit Goa and accepted alternate modes of payment and facilitated the state’s initiative for a cashless society,” Tourism Director Menino D’Souza told IANS.

“It was only in the first month of the introduction of demonetisation that the industry witnessed some cuts in travel plans from domestic and international tourists, but within a month the scenario was back to normal and we did not see any huge drop in footfalls,” D’Souza said.

Other stakeholders, of course, disagree.

“It created a negative impact on us. We had to suffer a lot to make ends meet and paying employee salaries was a total burden. As a result we had to lay off many good employees as business was poor,” said Sheldon Remedios of Groove Events, one of the popular event management companies in Goa.

He said that convincing clients to go cashless was “very difficult”. Now, the introduction of Goods and Services Tax was also not a healthy prospect, he said adding that “the forthcoming season also looks quite dull for us.”

Many businesses benefit from the beeline tourists make for the Goa beeches. Take the example of Smile Factory, a dental clinic in Calangute beach village known as a dental tourism destination. Dr Rachna Fernandes, who runs the clinic, must have seen the smile being wiped away from the visitors’ faces.

“They did not like standing in queue for hours for a couple of thousand rupees each day. They said they were here for a holiday, not to stand in queues for hours begging for their own money. It had scarred people. So those who were annoyed will not come back. Not this season at least,” Fernandes said.

Several of her prospective clients, who had pre-booked dental appointments before arriving in Goa on a holiday, had cancelled their arrival plans after hearing about the demonetisation decision, she said.

But has demonetisation spread the practice of digital transactions in the tourism hub?

Despite demonetisation and the subsequent emphasis on cashless transactions, only five per cent of the transactions were carried out by cashless means, D’Souza of Eastbound Group said. “Ninetyfive per cent of the transactions are still in cash,” he added.

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