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India, Bangladesh coordination leaves hilsa fish in lurch

DHAKA, Bangladesh

Bangladesh observes a 65-day-long ban to catch hilsa fish to permit its breeding, the continual fishing from the Indian side leaves this ban irrelevant, say experts.

Hilsa is valued fish for the Bengali population living in Bangladesh and neighboring India. India also imposes an embargo on fishing of this prized catch, but at a special time.

While Bangladesh observes a ban from May 20 to July 23, India imposes the embargo from April 15 to May 31, then from Sept. 15 to Oct. 24 on fishing within the sea and country’s main rivers per annum.

Therefore, experts are urging both countries to coordinate and observe embargoes at an equivalent time to permit the fish to breed in peace within the Bay of Bengal and therefore the main rivers.

Golam Mostofa Chowdhury, president of Barguna District Fishing Trawler Owners’ Association (BDFTOA), said during the time Bangladesh imposes a ban on fishing, Indian trawlers have a field day to catch the fish within the sea.

“Both countries use an equivalent sea for catching Hilsa fish. The embargoes got to be observed by both countries simultaneously,” he said.

He said both Bangladesh and India got to coordinate and save the hilsa fish, which lives within the sea, but during the June-September monsoon, it travels to rivers to breed.

“As Bangladesh and India are the closest neighbors and both countries are passing through the warmest diplomatic relations now, I hope that the govt would negotiate with India on this issue immediately,” said Chowdhury.

He said Indian fishing trawlers poke into Bangladeshi maritime territory very often – sometimes thanks to rough weather and sometimes intentionally.

Almost per annum dozens of Indian fishermen are detained by the Bangladeshi Navy and Coast Guard.

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Early in September, the Bangladesh Coast Guard detained 13 Indian nationals with a fishing trawler on charges of illegally intruding into Bangladeshi waters.

“We want to ascertain our 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) maritime territory safe, secured and completely dedicated to us without the intrusion of any outsiders,” Fatima Parvin, president of an area government union council within the southern district of Barguna, told.

Needs future national policy

Referring to the demand of many coastal people and therefore the overall interest of the country, Parvin called on the govt to adopt a robust and long-term national policy to preserve Hilsa fish.

Experts believe that overfishing and lack of coordination between India and Bangladesh have decimated Hilsa stocks.

Like other thousands of fishermen Aminul Islam Idris, 50, had invested in two fishing trawlers by arranging loans within the hope to catch and sell Hilsa fish.

Nearly 10 million people in 24 coastal districts in Bangladesh are directly and indirectly hooked in to this fish, consistent with an area fishing trade body, consistent with BDFTOA.

“Almost 100,000 small and large trawlers and boats are currently fishing within the Bay of Bengal and main rivers across the country while approximately 500,000 fishermen are directly engaged,” Chowdhury said.

Besides, tens of thousands of businessmen are involved within the processing and marketing of Hilsa while thousands of laborers fully trusted this big marketplace for their livelihood. There also are thousands of workshops for repairing and making machines for fishing trawlers.

“Whenever there’s a scarcity of Hilsa within the sea, we’ve no money and that we suffer from hunger,” Mohammad Sarwar, an area fisherman within the coastal district of Barguna, said.

Bangladeshi Hilsa Padmar Ilish (Hilsa from the Padma River) believed to be superior quality is taken into account a delicacy within the Indian state of West Bengal.

According to a study conducted last year by Jadavpur University in West Bengal some 15,000 trawlers are hovering within the migratory path of the hilsa leading to declining its stocks.

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