If you order it, you'll be served old frozen stock
Every year in June and July, the Sindh government bans prawn fishing to allow its population to replenish as these months are breeding season.
The launches that usually go out to sea to catch prawn are docked from June 1. At the start of the month, the bigger fishing boats that had gone into the deep sea earlier start returning and some small boats are still covertly going into the water.
Sometimes prawn lands in their nets along with fish but the seafood goes off as these men have a problem offloading their stock because everyone in the market knows there is a ban. What ends up happening is that traders take advantage of demand and buy this prawn as super low rates.
Fishermen say people usually like to buy Kalri Prawn which sell for Rs600 per kg in winter. But during breeding season the price sinks to Rs350 per kg. This happens partly because of low demand as people are also nervous eating prawn in hot weather. The other factor that influences price is the ban for breeding season.
High-end restaurants generally serve Tiger Prawn and Jheera Prawn. In winter, Jheera sells for Rs500 to Rs800 per kg, depending on the size. Right now, fishermen can fetch only Rs250 to Rs500 for them. It is the same case with Tiger Prawn, whose price has gone from Rs800 to Rs1,600 in season to Rs400 now.
A majority of prawn buyers are traders linked with seafood processing plants, that buy prawn at cheap rates and freeze it in their factories. Later on, they export it and make big profits. Even if they are ever caught with the product during the ban, they get away by saying it is old stock.
Factory owners deny these allegations.
The Sindh government may impose the ban on fishing this time each year but it doesn’t wonder how fishermen will earn during these two months, argued Asif Bhatti, the president of the Native Island Fishermen Association. Although the ban is on prawn alone, the government stops fishing altogether, he said.
It is not possible to go fishing from Karachi Fish Harbour, Baba and Bhitt Islands these two months. Fishermen do, however, venture into closer water from Ibrahim Hyderi, Rehri Goth and Keti Bandar. The price they get for this catch is so low, however, that they can’t even cover their expenses, Bhatti said.
According to the fisheries, prices are low these days:
Mushka – Rs300 per kg
Khagga – Rs120 to Rs200 per kg
White Pomfret – Rs500 per kg
Black Pomfret – Rs400 to Rs700 per kg
Surmai – Rs300 per kg
Dandiya – Rs200 to Rs300 per kg
Haji Nisar, who supplies ice to fishing boats, said that the prices are so low that launch owners can’t even cover their expenses and almost all the boats have returned.
Fifty-five-year-old Haji Sattar, a launch owner from Baba Island, said that they have a saying that one should not eat fish and prawn in the months that doesn’t have the letter “R” in their names (May, June, July and August). It is partly because of this and partly due to the hot weather that the sales of fish and prawn have gone down, he said.
The government should have a policy to help fishermen during the ban, he added.