Despite the heavy demand for hilsa fish surrounding the upcoming Pahela Baishakh, markets of Barishal city are not storing any hilsa, due the government's ban on fishing jatka (hilsa fry less than nine inches long). But the traders have improvised by turning the city's biggest hilsa market on Port Road into a watermelon market.
The Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock slapped the ban to prevent the catching of hilsha fry. The ban is effective from March 1 to April 30, on a 100km stretch sanctuary of hilsha in Meghna river starting from Shatnol of Chandpur to Char Alexander of Laxmipur. Sections of Padma, Meghna and Tetulia rivers adjacent to Chandpur, Bhola, Barishal and other districts are included in the ban.
“The government imposed a two-month ban, so we can't catch any hilsa from the big rivers. We netted the parts that aren't part of the sanctuary, but to no avail,” said a fisherman after returning from a day's work.
Most fishermen are working as day labourers in different industries to earn their livelihoods. However, some have not yet given up on the pursuit of hilsa -- they are constantly netting the areas outside the sanctuary, and those lucky enough to find the fish are selling it to traders from Dhaka for a high price, alleged a trader.
But the former hub of hilsa trading is now selling the summer delicacy, watermelon. “Hilsa is rare, but watermelon is abundant now. That's why we have turned to selling fruit,” said a trader.
Bimol Das, District Fisheries Officer of Barishal said fishermen will be allowed to net big rivers as soon as the ban is lifted.