The two-month ban on fishing at six hilsa sanctuaries is going to end today (Friday) at midnight.
The ban has been in place since March 1, in an area of 432 kilometres across six sanctuaries. Three of these sanctuaries, spanning 272 kilometres, are in Barishal Division, said officials of the fisheries department.
According to sources at Fisheries Department, 100 km area from Shatnal Point in Chandpur to Char Alexander in Lakshmipur, 90 km from Charilisha to Charpial in Bhola, 100 km from Charveduria in Bhola to Charrustam in Patuakhali, 82 km from Barishal Sadar to Mehendiganj upazila, 20 km from Naria to Bhederganj of Shariatpur, and 40 km area of Andharmanik river in Kalapara of Patuakhali were under the two-month ban.
Deputy Chief of Fisheries Department's Dhaka office, Masud Ara Momi, told The Daily Star, "As the number of operational drives and monitoring activities have increased, we think the ban has been successful. The lockdown has reduced the tendency of fishermen to go down the river. Now due to the drought situation, the water flow in the river has reduced and salinity has increased."
Asked if this phenomena can affect fish production, Masud Ara said, "We are expecting heavy rain in June and July, which will offset the effects of the drought. So we are hoping fish production will not be affected greatly."
Deputy Director of Barisal Divisional Fisheries Officer Anisur Rahaman Talukder said the hilsa production in Barisal division was 3.5 lakh tonnes last year, and it is expected to be 3.6 lakh tonnes this time.
THE WOES OF FISHERS
According to the Barishal Divisional Fisheries Office, there are 3,83,191 fishermen registered in the division. Of this, food aid is being given to less than 60 percent fishermen.
From February to May, the fisherman card holders are to be given 40 kg of rice per month. They have received this aid till March. According to the Department of Fisheries, this food aid is provided for the conservation of jatka and for compliance with the Fisheries Act.
Although they are gearing up to get back to fishing after the ban is lifted, the fishermen of the sanctuary areas have been demanding a separate allocation for them for a long time, said Israel Pandit, president of the Barisal Divisional Small Fishermen's Association.
He said that this time the families of the fishermen are passing a hard time due to the eight-month ban on jatka fishing along with a two-month fishing ban at the sanctuaries. The promise to give them rice during the two-month ban was not fulfilled.
Fishermen in Lohalia and Rajguru villages under Babuganj Upazila on the banks of Arial Kha river in Barisal said that half of the fishermen had received the card, but not all received food aid.
Shah Alam, an elderly fisherman from Lohalia village, said that although there were about 400 fishermen in the village, only 55 got the cards. Meanwhile at Rajguru village, only 200 out of 700 fishermen received the cards.
Babuganj Upazila Fisheries Officer Saiduzzaman said a total of 3,275 fishers have received the cards in his upazila. "However, the registration process was closed for a long time. Now we have been instructed to update the list and there are over 600 applications already for the fisher cards."
Seventy-year-old Mamataj Begum of Lohalia village told this correspondent, "These ongoing bans along with the lockdown have ruined our lives."
Fisherman Shah Alam said, "During drives, they [the authorities] destroyed our nets and took away the fish. This is not just a punishment, this is destroying our livelihoods. There is no one to see how we cope with these bans and lockdowns."
Another villager, Kohinur Begum, said, "At least 300 children from these two villages (Lohalia and Rajguru) used to go to school regularly. Most of them are dropping out because we can't afford it anymore."