An experiment to reopen the Kozhikode central fish market resulted in overcrowding on Thursday, forcing authorities to shut shop once again. The market had been closed amid the COVID-19 crisis. It was opened for a few hours on Thursday morning. However, soon after it was opened, trucks carrying fish and crowds crowded the market. Faced with controlling the crowd, police officials closed the market.
â€śEven before the market was open, the trucks that brought the fish were lined up here. Soon after sale began, people started flocking, then the situation became uncontrollable. When we found that all the lockdown rules would be violated, health officials asked us to stop it. So we controlled it and all the labourers and merchants cooperated with us,â€ť Kozhikode Town Circle Inspector Umesh said.
The initial decision was to open the market from 7 am to 10 am everyday adhering to social distancing regulations. The directions from the authorities was to allow two trucks with fish at a time. But on Thursday, seven lorries arrived together with fish and the police had to send them back.
Meanwhile in Thiruvananthapuram's Vizhinjam harbour, fishermen tried to conduct the bidding process without adhering to the COVID-19 regulations. They were blocked by the police, leading to a clash at the harbour.
On Thursday, Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma said in a press meet that traditional fishermen and small boats can continue fishing from Saturday while troll boats would be banned. In Kasaragod district, no boats will be allowed for fishing.
â€śEven in traditional fishing, many people will not be allowed in one boat. Itâ€™s because we should avoid the crowd at this time. Traditional fishing is allowed but bidding in the harbours will be banned,â€ť she said.
â€śFishing practices where many fishing boats together pull a net will not be allowed. Small boats that carry four or five fishermen can resume fishing from April 4,â€ť she added.
She made it clear that the harbour society under the district collector would decide on the rate of the fish. Fish landing centers will also be decided by the society, the Minister said.
â€śBy maintaining proper social distancing, we will have the facilities to bring the fish to the markets,â€ť she said.
However, fishermen say that the Minister's order need more clarification.
â€śThere are more than 20,000 traditional fishing boats in Kerala. If they all go for fishing, social distancing cannot be maintained. There are boats that accommodate 10 to 20 fishermen. That will also result in a crowd,â€ť said Advocate Charles George, President Matsya Thozhilali Aikyavedi.
â€śGovernment should ensure the safety of fishermen as well as provide them relief funds as they are not able to work. Even if they go fish, the availability is very less. We have been demanding a fish scarcity relief fund for traditional fishermen for a long time,â€ť he said.