Wed, 16 Oct, 2019

Local restaurants all geared up to deal with fishing ban

During monsoon, most restaurants would rather buy expensive small fish than serve frozen fish to their customers. It’s a testimony to the fact that Goans love their fish fresh. However, fresh fish comes at a much higher price, which means that restaurants will have to take a hit on their margins. But, the restaurant owners are not complaining because they know that fishing ban is necessary for breeding of fish

17th June 2019, 02:36 Hrs

Karan Sehgal

Come monsoon, every year, the State Government imposes a ban on bull trawling, which means that trawlers are not allowed for two months, June & July, to go deep into the sea for fishing. The move is to facilitate breeding of fish and to safeguard marine ecosystem.

For restaurants, it means that they find it difficult to get the supply of big varieties like kingfish. So they change their business model for two months of monsoon by buying whatever fresh fish is available, even if it is at a higher price. 

Even though trawlers are not allowed in deep sea for two months of rain, but traditional fishing is permitted along the coast, which means that there is some catch of fresh fish. However, the quantities are limited and the price is high.

Gaurish Naik, owner, Peep Kitchen in Taleigao, said, “Supply of fresh fish is still there in the market, although the prices have moved up by minimum 30%. Kingfish is difficult to get because trawlers are not going deepwater into the sea.”

The fact that kingfish and other big varieties of fish are not available in the market does affect the business of restaurants. Most of them have steaks on their menus, which can be made only with a big piece of fish. If only small varieties of fish are available, steaks can’t be served.

Mayur Dhond, owner, Edward’s Yard in Goa-Velha, said, “During monsoon, I buy small variety of fresh fish like silver fish and lady fish because bigger varieties aren’t available. However, I can’t make steak from small fish, which means that we are not able to serve certain items on our menu.”

Even though restaurant owners face teething issues during rains, they don’t complain about the fishing ban. They realize that if not for fishing ban, the fishermen would catch baby fish and not let them become mature to breed, which would eventually destroy the whole ecosystem.

Chef Soumyen from Chef Soumyen’s Kitchen in Calangute said, “Few years ago, I saw baby pomphret in the market and I knew that something was terribly wrong with the way we were fishing. If you don’t let baby fish become adult and breed, how is the fishing ecosystem going to survive? So two months ban on fishing from June to July is actually a great thing, which we restaurant owners support.”

To deal with the fishing ban, restaurant owners prefer buying whatever good quality fresh fish is available in the market like ladyfish, rohu, kalta, chonak, prawns, squids and etc. But most restaurant owners are averse to the idea of buying frozen fish during monsoon.

Chef Soumyen continued, “I would never use frozen fish because even though it is packaged very well, but it is hardly fish. If you take a packet of frozen fish and thaw it, you would realize 30-40% of weight is just water.”

Dhond said, “There are brands of frozen fish also available in the market. However, most people in Goa prefer fresh fish. So, we as restaurant owners also have to buy fresh fish itself.”

There is supply of fresh fish in the market during monsoon, but prices soar like anything. For example: Last year, ladyfish was available for Rs 800-900 a kg. This year, the price of small kingfish has increased from Rs 550 to Rs 850 a kg.

Price may be high, but restaurant owners prefer buying fresh fish even in rains because they have a loyal clientele, who they value and don’t want to lose. 

Naik said, “In the last five years, we have’t used frozen fish at all even during monsoon. We are really popular for our fish-thali. Last year in rains, we used fresh black pomphret and local salmon in fish thali.”

Chef Soumyen said, “I generally prefer sea bass and then I like kingfish. These two varieties are available in non monsoon months. In monsoon time, I buy ladyfish, rohu and kalta. But, if I don’t get good fish in monsoon, I would rather tell my customer that I don’t have fish and if he wants, he may go for something in chicken.”

What also helps restaurant is that the number of tourists in June and July is lesser than in peak time like November or December. Especially restaurants in beach belt, which are focussed on tourists, manage to buy fresh fish or good quantity frozen fish during rains.

Alka D’Souza from Foxes Fiesta in Calangute, said, “Business is lower in June and July and consumption of fish is also lesser. So, the situation is manageable.”

Last year, during monsoon, the State Government had banned the import of fish in Goa after Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) found formalin in imported fish. So far such instances have not been noticed this year.

Restaurant owners are hoping that the supply of good quality, chemical-free fish continues during monsoon so that they can keep on serving their customers.

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