If you’re a mathi lover, you’re at the right place. But, we’ve got some bad news for you.
Mathi has been a household item for many Malayalis. The fried smell of which makes us want to leave everything, and hog it. It holds the status of being ‘the poor man’s fish’, quite like kappa, because it is one of the cheapest fishes in the Kerala market, and is highly nutritious as it packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamins D, A and B12. But, mathi is slowly disappearing from our seashores.
The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute warned that the availability of mathi will remain low in 2020, as it has been in the past two years. Ever since the El Nino outbreak, the production of mathi has drastically reduced, and this year the predictions are the same. One mathi lays up to one lakh eggs at a time, but the El Nino outbreak resulted in very low or almost no reproduction, impacting Kerala consumers and producers largely. The mathi catch dropped to 44,320 tonnes – the lowest figure in two decades! Most of it are being imported from Oman now.
The price of mathi usually varies from ₹60 to ₹100 a kg, but since the past few years, it has gone up to ₹150 a kg. This fish, which accounts for 30% of the fish consumption in Kerala, has been drastically affected by ecological modifications.
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Charles George, the General Secretary of Kerala Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi stated that the mathi, even at its lowest rates, is valued at one crore every year. But owing to the current conditions, the value is likely to fall, majorly affecting thousands of fisherfolk who engage in harvesting this fish. He shared, “The wages of sardine fishers has come down from ₹88,000 a year in 2012 to ₹45,000 a year in 2018.”
Very recently, an eight-year-old girl, who goes by the name Nasiya Salam, had penned down a poem titled ‘an ode to sardine’ because she missed it so much. Her video went so viral that even celebrities shared it on their social media platforms. She would have it for lunch almost every day, but since Kerala has been facing a severe scarcity of the fish, finding one has been very hard.
Owing to its scarcity, will mathi no longer be the common man’s staple fish in Kerala?