Bid to protect hilsa without 'protecting' the fishermen | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 22, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

Bid to protect hilsa without 'protecting' the fishermen

Bid to protect hilsa without 'protecting' the fishermen

Fishermen, otherwise free due to the ongoing ban on catching jatka, pass their time weaving and mending their fishing nets. The photo was taken from Majhibari in Kuakata sea beach area of Patuakhali yesterday.  PHOTO: STAR
Fishermen, otherwise free due to the ongoing ban on catching jatka, pass their time weaving and mending their fishing nets. The photo was taken from Majhibari in Kuakata sea beach area of Patuakhali yesterday. PHOTO: STAR

The government's food assistance programme under its hilsa protection scheme covers only 45 percent of the 83 thousand seasonally jobless fishermen of coastal districts Patuakhali and Barguna, that too for half of the yearly eight-month ban period on catching jatka (hilsa less than nine inches long).
To help smooth breeding and growth of popular fish hilsa, the fisheries department imposes ban on jatka (hilsa less than nine inches long) catching for eight months from November to June, said sources in Patuakhali district fisheries office.
To help the hilsa fishermen who become jobless during the ban period, authorities in 2009-2010 fiscal year introduced food support styled vulnerable group feeding programme for them.
Under the programme, each of the listed fishermen gets 40 kg of rice every month, said Md Iqbal Hossain, district fisheries officer of Patuakhali.
But it is provided only from March to June and covers only 38,928 of about 83,000 hilsa fishermen in Patuakhali and Barguna districts.
In Patuakhali, 25,173 out of 45,618 fishermen have been brought under the VGF programme while the number of such beneficiaries in Barguna is 13,750 out of about 38,000 seasonally jobless fishermen, said sources at the district fisheries offices.
During a recent visit to Syedjafar, a fishermen's village in Dashmina upazila under Patuakhali district, this correspondent found fishermen's families, who are outside the food assistance programme, passing days amid untold sufferings.
"I along with my son catch fish in the river to run the family. Now we are jobless during the ongoing ban on catching jatka. We went to the upazila town in search of other work but in vain," said Jabbar Howlader of the village.
"Many fishermen are getting help under jatka protection programme but I am deprived," he said.
Many other fishermen including Harun Duary, 45, Moslem Majhi, 50, Harun Majhi, 43, and Ishaq Ali, 30, have similar tales to tell.
Over 200 fishermen in the village are outside the VGF programme, said Shikder Nazrul Islam, chairman of Dashmina upazila unit of Bangladesh Small Fishermen's Association.
"All the hilsa fishermen should be taken under the VGF programme to mitigate their sufferings during the ban period. Besides, they should be provided with alternative job to discourage them to catch jatka so that the country gets huge quantity of large sized hilsa," said Md Faruq Hossain, fisheries survey officer of Barguna district.  

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