FT Online

2019-07-11 15:46:54 BdST

Fishing ban in Sundarbans deprives hundreds of incomes

Amid a 65-day-ban on netting fish in the Bay of Bengal, the authorities imposed a fresh ban on all kinds of fishing in rivers and canals that flow through the Sundarbans.

In a prohibitive order, the Forest Department banned fishing in 13 rivers and 450 canals inside the Sundarbans for two months starting from July 1. The step has been taken to ensure safe breeding and conservation of aquatic animals and prevent poisoning in the river.

Fishermen of the area are already facing another ban imposed on fishing in the Bay of Bengal. That ban, which started on May 20, will continue till July 23.

In such circumstances, those who earn their livelihoods by fishing got frustrated as they will have to sit idle during the entire period. The authorities did not bother to provide any alternatives for them to earn their way. Hundreds of fishermen are now jobless and without an income.

Obviously this affects repayment of their debts with local money lenders. Although they are jobless, they have to repay their loans with the same rate of interest.

Ishaq Gazi, a fisherman of Khulna’s Koyra Upazila, said after Cyclones Sidr and Aila, most of the residents in Koyra area are dependent on the Sundarbans to manage bread and butter. He also earns his livelihood by fishing here. 

‘’But the authorities  imposed ban on fishing for next two months. As a result, I along with family members have to go through severe financial hardship during the period,’’ Ishaq said. 

Another fisherman of Shyamnagar, Raees Molla, demanded financial assistance from the government as they have to sit idle during the period. Eight members of his family are fully dependent on fishing in the Sundarbans for earning livelihood..

“We are looking for another way of income,” he added.

According to Forest Department, 13 large rivers, including Bhola, Baleswar, Shal, Pashur, and 450 canals stream through the largest mangrove forest. In these rivers and canals, there are 210 species of white fish, 24 species of shrimp, 14 species of crab, 43 species of molluscs and lobster. In addition to these, there are 6 species of dolphin, including nearly extinct Irawaddy Dolphin.

July-August is the breeding season for these fish. In order to ensure safe breeding, netting fish has been prohibited here.

Chandpai Range officer (ACF) of Eastern Sundurbans Md Shahin Kabir said fishermen of the area have already been informed about the ban order.

But the Forest Department will allow limited fishing in big rivers, he added.

Apart from the surveillance of forest department, members of the management committee of the forest, CPG, VTRT and Wild Team have been employed to enforce the prohibitory order.

Md Mahmudul Hasan, Departmental Forest Officer (DFO) of Eastern Sundarbans in Bagerhat, said fishermen get permission for fishing after paying a certain amount of revenue.

But some fishermen enter illegally and net fish indiscriminately.

In the breeding season, a huge amount of fish gather in the rivers and canals of the Sundarbans. Taking the opportunity, some dishonest fishermen spray poison in canals of the area with a lure to get extra profit.

Consequently, all species living in water die being affected by the poison. This practice causes adverse effects on the biodiversity of the area.

To avoid this, the authorities have taken the step to ban fishing.

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