Sindh’s most popular fish becoming extinct

June 04,2013

Hyderabad: Hundreds of fishermen, dependant on freshwater fish, are waiting to receive water from the Indus River to catch fish, especially palla . At present, due to changes in weather, the dry...

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Hyderabad: Hundreds of fishermen, dependant on freshwater fish, are waiting to receive water from the Indus River to catch fish, especially palla (hilsa). At present, due to changes in weather, the dry river bed has aggravated the woes of the fishing community.
Palla is Sindh’s traditionally most popular fish. It travels both downstream and upstream for breeding during the monsoon season. Fishermen usually catch palla during the four-month season, which starts from May till the end of August. Since the last 20 years, the fish has become extinct due to unavailability of water in downstream areas.
Mohammed Mallah, an elder of the fishing community, says that the palla season used to bring joy to the people as they would keep their children’s wedding during the period.
This was also the time when the Jamshoro bridge got the status of a picnic resort, which used to attract hundreds of people who enjoyed different varieties of cooked palla. Palla was a major export item for traders. As the fish has become extinct now, a majority of fishermen have become jobless.
There are 300,000 people dependent on palla from the Indus delta to Kotri barrage. It was a long time ago when the streams of water used to carry the fish up to Sukkur. Many fishermen believe that the bridge gates now cause problems for the fish to travel. They also link sand-bed streams to depletion of forests along the river bank.
Fishermen say that they last saw palla during the flooding of Indus River in 2010. Ever since then, they have been waiting for more floodwater during the palla season to catch abundant Palla fish. They added that during the floods of 2011 and 2012, the river water streamed to the sea by the end of September, which did not give any hope to the people.
There are 65 jetties from Raylo Mayan, Jamshoro to Kharo Chan in Thatta district. Fishermen catch palla and other fishes from these jetties for the purpose of selling. However, after the decline in fish catch, almost all these jetties have either deserted or are operating poorly.
Many elders of the fishing community believe that for the last 20 years, the quantity of palla fish has declined sharply, thereby forcing hundreds of families to switch to other sources for their livelihood.
Almost 20 years ago, palla was available in the local markets for only Rs20 per kg. Due to its unavailability in the markets, palla is being imported from Iran, Bangladesh, Taiwan and Korea and is being sold for anywhere between Rs1,500 and Rs2,000 per kg in Karachi and Hyderabad’s markets.
Iranian palla is being sold for Rs500 to Rs700 in wholesale markets, which traders sell for Rs1,000 to Rs1,200, depending on its weight and size. Nevertheless, fishermen are aware that imported palla does not have the same taste as local palla.

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