The government has put a ban on import and construction of wooden trawlers for fishing in the Bay of Bengal.
“We have taken the decision to arrest overexploitation of our marine fish stock,” said Syed Arif Azad, director general of the Department of Fisheries (DoF).
Insiders, however, said the decision came to prevent 'trial fishing' by using the trawlers auctioned off by the government following confiscation from foreign fishermen who wander off into Bangladesh territory.
The government disposes off the boats on condition that the buyers would not use them for fishing in the seas.
However, a section of the buyers go to the High Court for permission to allow them to catch fish in the sea.
With such orders from the court, 77 wooden trawlers, including 45 having trial fishing permission, are engaged in the Bay.
Apart from these, 148 officially approved trawlers and nearly 44,000 fishing boats also ply in the sea, threatening sustainability of marine stock, according to industry operators and experts.
Despite the catches of fish rising 1.73 percent year-on-year to 5.88 lakh tonnes in fiscal 2012-13, catches by trawlers slipped 0.49 percent to 73,030 tonnes in 2012-13 from the previous year, according to the DoF.
Wooden trawlers are not allowed for fishing in the deep-sea for safety and security reasons, said Nasiruddin Md Humayun, director of marine under the DoF.
Currently, most of the wooden trawlers that are engaged in fishing in the sea are 25-30 years old, he said.
Moreover, they all are engaged in bottom trawling, which is harmful for sustainability of various fishes and food chain, he added.
To stop trial fishing, the fisheries ministry is considering either incorporating a provision that stipulates that detained trawlers be scrapped after auction or handing over the detained trawlers to government agencies instead of holding auction, the insiders said.
“It is a good initiative. It will rein in over-fishing,” said AKM Nowsad Alam, professor of Bangladesh Agricultural University's fisheries technology department.
He said the wooden trawlers are outdated and spill oil in the sea. They are also risky for fishing in deep water as they do not have modern equipment and technologies.