Amrita Roychowdhury had been delighted when she spotted the fish at Lake Market, but the price left her flabbergasted. “We have been waiting for hilsa for over a month now. So when I saw the fish on Wednesday, I could not help but get drawn to it. My grandson has been asking me when we would have hilsa this season. Unfortunately, I had to defer the purchase because the price was atrocious,” she said.
The sky-high price, however, did not deter Abhaya Das Roy from buying a 1.2kg fish for Rs 1,900. “I just couldn’t miss the opportunity. The wait has been long enough. By the shape and size of the fish, I can tell it will be great to taste,” he said.
Vendors hoped more pocket-friendly, mid-sized fish will arrive from Diamond Harbour soon. “Connoisseurs will not mind paying for the fish on offer. Others will have to wait for the catch to increase so the prices cool off,” said Vijay Singh, a trader at the Sealdah fish auction market.
Amar Das, a fish vendor at Lake Market, said the hilsa that arrived were either 400g-500g or over 1.1kg. While the former sold for Rs 900-Rs 1,100 per kg, the latter sold in excess of Rs 1,800 per kg.
Fishermen caught the hilsa near the border with Bangladesh, said Kakdwip Fishermen’s Association secretary Bijon Maity. “Though the catch was of 1.5 tonnes against 3 tonnes-4 tonnes we would net in a single trip five years ago, we are hopeful the tide will turn in our favour,” he said.
Hilsa shoals appear to have left the Indian section of Bay of Bengal due to rampant fishing of juvenile hilsa and moved towards Bangladesh where the ban on juvenile catch is stringently implemented.
Debasish De, principal scientist and officer-in-charge, Central Institute of Bra-ckishwater Aquaculture, Kakdwip, said reckless fishing is pushing hilsa into extinction in Indian waters of Bay of Bengal. “It won’t be long before hilsa will only be viewed in photographs. The taste of a hilsa matures when it swims back to sea after laying eggs. During its stay in sweet water for three months, it becomes rounded. But we often catch them with eggs. Hence, hilsa population is declining,” he said.