The government of Bangladesh has imposed a ban on all types of fishing off its coastal region from 20 May to 23 July 2019 to ensure the safe and sustainable accumulation of fish reserves. The coast guard and navy will be patrolling the Bay of Bengal to enforce the ban. However, for the fishing communities, most of whom depend on fishing for their daily subsistence, the decision is a big blow. Although the government has promised to provide monthly rations to affected fishers, the latter are voicing out their frustrations and the challenges they will be facing for the next two months.
Fishing in Bangladesh
Traditionally, Bangladesh relies on fishing to feed its estimated population of 163 million. More than 60 percent of the animal protein intake in the Bangladeshi diet comes from fish. The country has an exclusive economic zone of 41,000 square miles in the Bay of Bengal which is 73% of the country's total land and maritime areas. There are approximately 475 species of fish, 36 species of shrimp, 15 species of crab, and 301 species of snail and oyster in the Bay of Bengal among others; and around 100 species are fished commercially. There is an estimated two million fisherfolk across the country and around 18.2 million people are employed in fisheries and aquaculture industries. Around half a million fisherfolk earn their livelihood from the coastal region.
In recent years fish stocks worldwide have started declining because of overfishing and due to the effects of climate change. This is also the case in Bangladesh. Short-term bans on commercial fishing in limited areas had been enforced in the past few years, but this is the first time that all fishing boats have been banned for a lengthy period. This includes local fisherfolk who work in the rivers and in the seas. Authorities said that this ban will be continually enforced in the succeeding years during the breeding season to boost fish stocks.
The State Minister For Fisheries and Livestock Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru told the media:
These resources will deplete one day if we do not use them sustainably. We should let fish grow and breed. Otherwise, we will have to suffer in the future.
Last October, the government banned the fishing of the national fish Hilsa (Ilish) for 22 days to allow the fish to lay their eggs and migrate from the Bay of Bengal to the Meghna and other river systems. Data collected by WorldFish from Hilsa sanctuaries showed that the total Hilsa catch increased by 28 percent, from 387,211 metric tons to 496,417 metric tons in the 2015 and 2016 harvest seasons due to similar bans.
Last March 2019, the government has imposed a 60-day ban on the fishing of all sorts of fish in Padma, Meghna and their tributary rivers adjacent to different areas of Chandpur, Bhola and Lakshmipur. The government also banned fishing in Kaptai lake, the largest man-made lake in Bangladesh for three months.
Read the full Global Voices article here.