An endangered, exquisite fish with tiger stripes covering the body from head to fin, rani fish or queen loach is reportedly making a comeback in the Hakaluki Haor.
Fishermen and Fisheries Department officials as well are attributing this comeback to the government's declaration of several permanent fish sanctuaries in this northwestern wetland area spanning three districts.
Rani fish are called bou fish (bride fish) in the villages around Hakaluki. For those who have a knack for scientific nomenclature, the species is called Botia dario. In English, it is also known as Bengal loach.
The six to seven inch loaches are sweetwater bottom-dwelling fish having barbels around the mouth.
Bangladesh, India and Bhutan are the only countries to offer the delicacy of rani fish curry on one's platter, notwithstanding the beauty of the species.
Rani fish were once enlisted among the endangered fish species from Bangladesh.
But thanks to the demarcation of some water bodies in the haor as fish sanctuaries, local fishermen say their recent catches have turned up increasing number of rani, an evidence that the population of this species is beginning to bounce back, said Kulaura Upazila Senior Fisheries Officer Md Sultan Mahmud.
In 2012, the government declared 12 water bodies in the haor as permanent fish sanctuaries. There are reports that some other endangered fish species have also made a comeback in the haor since then.
The senior fisheries officer also noted that this year's fish catch from Hakaluki Haor is likely to break the record of the last seven years.
Kirendra Das, a fisherman from Hakaluki Haor, told the Dhaka Tribune that they used to catch only one or two rani fish during a day's haul in the recent past. “But over the last couple of years, the fish population have multiplied. And after the floods, they are schooling around in great numbers.
“Though the population has revived, it takes three to four days to catch one kilogram of rani fish. If one wishes to buy rani fish, he has to contact us before we go fishing. We can put together the catches of several fishermen and provide one kg rani fish in two to three days. It costs Tk2,000 for one kg rani fish.”