A very fishy tale from an erratic monsoon


KOLKATA: Patchy rains have many fallouts — among them, this year, a big shortage of the piscine delicacy, freshwater hilsa.

Supplies of the fish prized for its flavour have hit a five-year low. Prices have shot up, retailing at Rs 1,200-1,300 per kg, and in some cases even more, in major metro markets. And here’s another market twist — most good-sized hilsas being sold currently are frozen varieties imported from Myanmar, not fresh catch from Bengal.

Scientists at the Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute (CIFRI) said lower rainfall in South Bengal affected hilsa migration from the Bay of Bengal to estuaries of the Hooghly river.


Traders say there has been no major landing of hilsa since the beginning of monsoon, and that smaller hilsas that have been caught are being sold locally in Bengal.

Adult hilsas migrate to fresh waters from the sea for spawning. The young, upon hatching, rear in the river channels and estuaries before descending to the sea. Fishermen catch the hilsa during the migration and from the breeding grounds.

UK Sarkar, head of reservoir & wetland fisheries at CIFRI, said, “There is hardly any rainfall in south Bengal that can accelerate the migration of hilsa fish from Bay of Bengal to the estuaries of Hooghly and its channels. Weather is the stumbling block for migration this year.” According to the regional meteorological department, there has been 50% deficient rainfall from June 1 till date in the Gangetic West Bengal.

Fish traders from Delhi and Mumbai said that they are selling hilsa from Myanmar. A fish retailer in Navi Mumbai said there’s “huge demand for hilsa but that supply was “very low”.

Those who love freshwater hilsa have got another reason to hope for better rains in the latter part of the monsoon.

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