Fishing trawlers getting poor catch from Bay
Southern region's largest fish market and fishing trawler landing station, KB Bazar in Bagerhat, is witnessing a poor supply of fish after a 65-day ban on fishing at sea was over on July 23.
Unabated fishing by Indian fishing trawlers near the Bangladesh maritime borders during the fishing ban might have depleted fish population in the Bay of Bengal, speculated many fishers in Bagerhat.
Some of the local fishers also blamed the recent turbulent weather for the dwindling catch in the Bay.
In the morning this Sunday, while visiting KB Bazar -- located by the town protection embankment along the Daratana River, the area was seen teeming with fishers, sellers and buyers.
Out of all fish varieties, hilsa is the highest selling commodity at the market where daily trade amounts to several crores of taka.
Aside from hilsa, at least 50 different varieties of fish -- including Kaua, Koiya Bhol, Jaba Bhol, Mochan Gagra, Chela, Dhela, Laitta, Bhol, Kankon, Meid, Tengra, Rupchanda and Botal -- are usually available at KB Bazar.
A single piece of hilsa, weighing 1 kilogram, was being sold for between Tk 1,000 and Tk 1,100. The smaller ones, weighing 500 grams each, were being sold for Tk 500 per kg. The rest were selling in sets of 4 to 6 pieces at Tk 300 to Tk 450 each kg.
Many fishers said freshly caught fish could have been sold at higher prices if imported frozen fish were not allowed to be sold at the same market.
Kabir, who brought sea fish to KB Bazar for sale, said while Bangladeshi fishers refrained from catching fish in the sea during the ban, large Indian fishing trawlers continued to catch fish near the Bangladesh maritime boundaries.
For that reason, fishers in Bangladesh have not been getting a good catch now despite their compliance with the lengthy ban, he added.
"We support the ban imposed by our government, but the Indian fishermen had been catching fish along our boundary lines all this time," alleged another fisher named Shukkur.
"The handful of fish we are getting now does not even cover our voyage cost. Moreover, fish prices have been falling at markets due to the ongoing lockdown," he lamented.
Bagerhat Coastal Fishermen's Association President Sheikh Idris Ali said over one lakh fishers and their families depend on fishing at the sea.
But this time around, their livelihood is at risk as many fishing trawlers have been incurring huge losses after returning empty-handed amid the turbulent sea.
Contacted, Bagerhat District Fisheries Officer ASM Russell said the rough seas might be one of the reasons behind the poor catch of fish at this time.
Acknowledging that fishing ban periods in Bangladesh and India are different, he said the ministry concerned has been working on to adopt a common maritime fishing ban calendar for the region under the banner of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
On the alleged netting of fish along the Bangladesh maritime boundaries by Indian fishing trawlers during the fishing ban in Bangladesh, he said in order to thwart such attempts by intruders, the maritime boundaries of the country are under constant surveillance by the navy and coast guard.