With the public and retailers breaking barricades and entering the Kasimedu fishing harbour early on Saturday, the wharf saw huge crowds from 5 a.m. to about 8 a.m.
A total of 67 mechanised boats brought in 120 tonnes of fish, which were sold off by noon.
“There are seven official entry/exit points to the harbour, and another seven that are illegal. They were closed. However, the sealed entrances were opened overnight and people rushed in even before 6 a.m., which was the allotted time of sale,” a source from the Fisheries Department said.
“Since it was a day ahead of the complete lockdown, a large number of individuals came to purchase fish. Though only 98 wholesalers had obtained passes for entry, about 300 came in small vehicles. They did not have passes and were initially stopped but later let inside in batches. On Friday, we had 40 boats but only 80 wholesalers and it went smoothly,” another official explained.
M.D. Dayalan of the Indian Fishermen Association called for better regulation of entry points at the harbour.
“There have always been security issues at the harbour, including burning of boats. The compound wall must be completely rebuilt and security personnel appointed. The facility is with the Port Trust, it needs to be under the control of the Fisheries Department for better management,” he said.
A senior police officer said they cordoned off the entire area and barricaded the way to the auction centre. “We have taken all-out efforts to ensure vendors wear masks and maintain personal hygiene. Wholesalers were allowed to enter only after verifying their identity cards and ensuring that norms are followed.”
On Saturday a meeting between senior officials of the Fisheries Department, the Greater Chennai Corporation and the police was held to ensure proper crowd management. Lighting was improved, CCTV cameras were repaired and 150 police personnel, fisheries staff and men from the Marine Enforcement Wing were deployed for crowd control.