Reconsider Blanket Ban On Fish Imports; Staple Diet of Goans Affected

Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo has demanded that random checks be conducted on fish consignments rather than having a blanket ban on import of fish in the State. “There can be stringent measures on the border to check whether the fish that is brought in the State is laced with chemicals. But that does not mean we have a blanket ban on the fish import,” Lobo said. He said that fish from neighbouring fishing hubs of Shiroda, Malvan, Sawantwadi in Maharashtra and Karwar from Karnataka are hardly two hour travel from the State and should be allowed. “The fish from these places are supplied in local markets. The restaurant business has been severely affected due to a scarcity of fish. The price of fish available in the market has sky-rocketed,” Lobo, a BJP MLA representing Calangute constituency, said. He said FDA can have mobile laboratories which can conduct random checks on the fish. “If anyone is found bringing in fish laced with chemicals, then he should be punished severely. Do not stop trucks which are bringing fresh fish to Goa,” he said. Azgaonkar was the first MLA to demand that fish import should not be banned. On Monday, the minister had said that the ban is going to affect the tourism industry in the State.

Citing losses to the tourism industry due to curbs on fish imports, deputy speaker and Calangute MLA Michael Lobo urged health minister Vishwajit Rane to reconsider the ban. Lobo also demanded that transporters from nearby areas such as Shiroda, Ratnagiri and Karwar be exempted from the insulated vehicle rule as the distance involved is very short. “Transporters from distant places such as Odisha and Andhra Pradesh can be brought under this rule, and not those from nearby areas, as it takes just two hours to ferry fish stored in ice here,” he said. “I know the health minister’s concern for the safety of Goans, but a ban at this juncture is not the solution. The formalin issue can be better handled by launching mobile testing labs. If anyone is found guilty, he should be punished severely,” he said. Lobo said the extension of ban for another six months has created confusion, especially in the tourism industry, which is dependent to a great extent on exotic fish from the neighbouring states. “Local fish catches are not sufficient to meet industry demands. Also, most local fish catch comprises mackerels and sardines, which tourists shy away from. They like to eat exotic seafood like lobsters, tiger prawns, pomfrets, kingfish and red snapper, which are unavailable here owing to the ban,” Lobo, a restaurateur himself, said. He also stated that the local catch was too pricey and cannot be made available for restaurant customers. “There are hundreds of fish-curry joints in Goa frequented by locals. They are badly affected due to unavailability of fish,” he said.