Fishing in the bay: hampered by bad catches, a long ban
Over the past three years, the government has imposed a 65-day ban on fishing in Bangladesh’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Bay of Bengal.
While the ban – imposed annually from May 20 to July 23 – aims to protect and increase the fish population, it does not have a significant impact on the bay’s fish population during the remainder of the year. year, said fishermen based in Pirojpur.
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They said that Bangladesh’s EEG ban alone could not ensure an increase in the fish population, as fishermen in the neighboring EEZs of India and Myanmar continue to net fish during the period. ban, along the maritime borders of Bangladesh.
In addition to the 65-day ban, local fishermen must also refrain from fishing at sea for an additional 22 days, around October-November each year, to protect the farm of hilsa – the most sought-after fish in Bangladesh. and West Bengal from India.
The two fishing bans, lasting almost three months, are part of the eight-month peak of the fishing season, which generally runs from mid-April to mid-November.
But their catches in the remaining five months – when trawlers are allowed to fish at sea – have been below normal in recent years, fishermen and trawler owners said.
Trawler owners said they bore the expenses of a trip with money loaned by pawn shops, such as fish wholesalers, and that the money to repay the loan and payment to the fishermen came from profits from the sale of fish caught on a particular voyage.
But in the last few fishing seasons, most of their trips have not generated much profit due to the low catch, which has resulted in their fishermen being defaulted on, let alone paying down debt, they added.
“We only get a reduction in profits if the trawler owner makes a profit after paying all the expenses,” said fisherman Sibu Das, from Tona village in Pirojpur Sadar upazila.
Before setting out to sea for a trip, fishermen lend money, called “dadon”, to trawler owners and leave it with their families for household expenses.
This debt continues to accumulate as they cannot repay the loan with the meager income they earned from sea fishing, said fellow fisherman, Ismail Hossain.
When fishing families struggle without cash during periods of no fishing, the only government assistance they receive is in the form of rice, which is not enough even for a family of four.
Many of them have tried to change occupations to survive, but it is difficult to learn a new trade when they have spent most of their lives learning to fish at sea, Ismail lamented.
Bimal Chandra, a fishing trawler owner, also from Tona village, said: “After spending more than TK 1.5 lakh on a sea trip, a fishing trawler often returns with no expected fish.”
The threat of hackers has been eradicated – thanks to the authorities; but the volume of fish caught is drastically decreasing due to multiple bans during peak season, he added.
In the past two years he must have taken 10 lakh of Tk in losses, said another trawler owner Mohammad Shahjahan, from the same area.
A fishing trawler costs 35 lakh Tk, but the banks do not provide any loan aid for the sector, he also said.
Local fish wholesaler Iqbal Hossain, who often lends money to trawler owners, said: “Many trawler owners are fleeing the area after failing to repay the loan. But the money is hardly recovered if the case goes to court.
Instead of imposing the 65-day ban, the fish population in the sea could be increased by banning the use of fine nets on improvised fishing vessels and confiscating illegal fishing nets such as the “Behundi” in the sea and rivers near the coast, said Kamal Das, president of the trawler owners association of Pirojpur district.
When asked whether the 65-day fishing ban in Bangladesh EEG alone contributes to increasing the overall fish population, Professor Hossain Zamal of the Fisheries Department of the Faculty of Marine Sciences and Fisheries of the ‘Chittagong University said more research is needed to determine the benefits of the 65-day fix. -day of prohibition, from May 20 to July 23, and the dates can be modified according to research.
Besides the strict enforcement of laws banning illegal fishing nets to increase the fish population, which in the long run would benefit the country’s fishermen, the Indian and Burmese authorities could be persuaded by diplomacy to comply with the ban on 65 days in the Bay of Bengal. at the same time with Bangladesh, he also said.
When contacted, Pirojpur District Fisheries Officer Abdul Bari said the government was looking to better help fishermen with food aid under various programs during periods of fishing bans.