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With Hilsa catch declining, Bagerhat fishermen stare at penury

Netting In Bay By Indian Fishermen Hampering Movement Of The Fecund Fish

13 August 2022
With Hilsa catch declining, Bagerhat fishermen stare at penury

UNB, Bagerhat :

The fishing community in Bagerhat is at its wit's end. From fishermen to traders, all are worried that the reign of the Hilsa may soon be over due to their Indian counterparts who enter Bangladeshi waters to net at the confluence of two prominent rivers -- the Pashur and the Baleshwar -- in the Bay of Bengal.
This netting at the confluence is hampering the movement of the 'king of fish' that travels from the sea to the sweet river waters, according to Bagerhat fishermen.

"Many of us just can't afford to venture into the sea for fishing and rely on the rivers for our livelihoods. But netting of the fecund fish at the conference of the two rivers by our Indian counterparts leaves us worried," a local fisherman said.

In fact, this has hit the entire supply chain -- there's not enough supply of the Hilsa in the wholesale markets of the district.

"For long, we have been demanding a ban on fishing at the conference of the rivers so that the 'king of fish' can move and breed freely in the many rivers of Bagerhat," he added.

Recently, this correspondent visited the KB Bazar wholesale fish market only to find old Hilsa stock from cold storages being sold.

Abed Ali Sheikh, president of the KB Bazar Fish Traders Association, said that the Hilsa isn’t entering the rivers of Bagerhat.

“During the same period last year, at least 100 mounds of Hilsa used to arrive at KB Bazar daily. But this year, we’re getting only 15-20 mounds of the fish. This shows how severe the Hilsa crisis has become,” he said.

Abed alleged that many Indian fishermen catch the sought-after fish from the Bangladesh side of the Bay of Bengal whenever a blockade is imposed. “That’s why a joint blockade by the two countries is needed,” he added.

ASM Rasel, district fisheries officer, said that the Hilsa will be found in Bagerhat’s rivers if its movement doesn’t get obstructed at the confluences.

Jakir Hossain, a wholesale Hilsa buyer, said that although the fish was selling at a rate of Tk 800 per kg just a few days ago, "the price has now soared to Tk 1,400 a kg due to low availability".

According to the Bagerhat District Fisheries Department, there are 39,627 fishermen in the district. Among them, around 10,000 catch fishes from the sea. The number of registered fishing trawlers is 400.

In FY 2021-22, fishermen caught around 5.65 lakh metric tonnes of the fecund fish across Bangladesh. This fiscal, it hopes the figure will touch six lakh metric tonnes.

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