The government has established six Ilish sanctuaries across the country
The country’s Ilish fish production has increased by around 150% in last 15 years – thanks to the government’s different conservation initiatives which include a temporal ban on fishing and livelihood support for the fisher-folk.
As a result, Ilish production increased from 199,032 tons in 2002-03 to 496,417 tons in 2016-17.
Imposing a fishing ban during two specific periods yearly, ensured that the mother fish spawned and became juvenile Ilish; this increased Ilish production, said Jahid Habib, district fisheries officer and Ilish conservation initiatives leader.
According to the Fisheries Statistical Report of Bangladesh 2016-17, the country’s total Ilish production is 496,417 tons—217,469 tons (43.81%) from inland and 278,948 tons (56.19%) from marine catches.
Aiming to conserve the country’s national fish supply and increase its production, the government has declared 432 km , of Ilish habitat across six river zones, as sanctuaries.
The sanctuaries are: a 100 km strip of the Meghna River—from Shatnol to Char Alexandar; a 90 km strip of the Shahbazpur Channel at the Meghna estuary in Bhola district; a 100 km strip of the Tentulia River in Bhola district; a 40 km stripe in Andharmanik River in Patuakhali district; a 20 km strip at the lower Padma (Padma Confluence) in Shariatpur district; and an 82 km strip of the Meghna River (from Hizla to Mehendiganj) in Barisal district.
Moratorium on fishing
The government has imposed ban on catching fishe from Ilish sanctuaries during two breeding seasons of the year.
The fisher-folk are banned from fishing between March and April, in all Ilish sanctuaries, except the Andharmanik River.
In the case of Andharmanik, the fishing ban occurs between November and January.
Meanwhile, the government has taken different measures to prevent the fishing community from fishing—these include support for food, finances, and alternative livelihoods for the duration of the ban.
Since 2007, the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief has allocated 40 kgs of rice to each fisherman family during the ban.
According to the Department of Fisheries, Ilish alone contributes to around 12% of the country’s total fish production. The economic value of the contribution is around 1% of country’s GDP.
Moreover on June 01, 2017, the government established a Ilish Geographical Indicator (GI) for Bangladesh.
According to a World Fish report published in October 2015, Bangladesh is the global leader, producing 65% of the total Ilish in the world—followed by India with 10%-15% and Myanmar with 8%-10% of the world’s production.
The remaining amount of Ilish comes from other countries.
Out of total inland Ilish catching: 171,713 tons are from the lower Meghna; 1,540 tons from upper Meghna; 3,160 tons from lower Padma; 351 tons from the upper Padma; 330 tons from the Jamuna; 412 tons from Brahmaputra; and 40,124 tons come from other rivers.
Around half a million fishermen are directly involved in Ilish catching in Bangladesh. The livelihood of an additional; 2 million people is indirectly involved with this fish.
“The rise of Ilish production has been possible due to the government’s protection measures,” Dr Anisur Rahman, senior scientific officer at Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute, said.
Bangladesh has become a role model for Ilish conservation to other Ilish-producing countries like India and Myanmar, he added.