Temporary ilish markets are openly trading along the Jamuna riverbank
Fishermen of the Jamuna River have been defying the government-imposed ban on ilish fishing by catching and selling ilish in Tangail.
Preventing ilish fishing is difficult because administrative activities are lax along the river due to the remote pasture areas surrounding its banks.
The few measures taken by the Department of Fisheries (DOF) and law enforcement have been ineffective in preventing ilish catching.
The fishermen are openly catching ilish using banned “current jal,” nylon fish nets. Almost 20-25tons of mother ilish are caught, on average, every day from the Jamuna river— near: Bangabandhu Bridge in Tangail sadar, Nagarpur upazila's Salimabad union, Bhuapur, and Kalihati upazila.
Some fishermen say they pay the River Police of Bangladesh and fisheries officials with fish, and money, in order to catch ilish.
The correspondent found that mother ilish are being caught in an area around 20km of river from Bhuapur upazila's Nikrail to Nagarpur upazila's Salimabad.
Temporary markets to sell ilish have been set up at 22-23 points, including: Bhuapur upazila's Nikrail, Gobindashi, Bhuapur char, Matikata; Kalihati upazila's Gorilabari, Beltia's Muktala, Alipur; Sadar upazila's Char powli, Kakua's Char, Goynahossain, Hugra, Beguntal, Satani Hugra, South Hugra, Dulbari, Alokdia, Chokgopal, Khosail, Mahmood Nagar, Boalkandi; and Nagarpur upazila's Chouhali near Jamuna's bank in Salimabad, among others.
Around Tk18-20 lakh’s-worth of ilish are being sold at these markets, and mother ilish are also peddled from houses along the riverbank.
Later, they sell the ilish to traders and usual customers for Tk200-500 per kilogram.
Ilish is also being sold at Belkuchi upazila of Sirajganj district. Hundreds of fishing boats flock to the Belur char area to sell ilish.
Fisheries Department and River Police are taking limited measures to prevent this.
On condition of anonymity, some fishermen told the Dhaka Tribune that fisheries administration are paid around Tk10,000-18,000, and some fish, to get the permission to fish at night.
They also have to pay Tk1,000-2,000 to local public representatives and influential people.
Some fishermen are caught with fish and fishing nets in the drives by the administration due to their carelessness.
Sources from the district Fisheries Office said 51 mobile courts conducted drives in 651 bazaars. Additionally, around nine riverbanks, 931 warehouses, and 1,450 bazaars have been inspected.
Around 4.163 tons of ilish have been seized and distributed to orphanages and madrasas; and 419,012m of fishing net has been seized and burned in these drives.
The mobile courts have filed 57 cases, sentenced 40 fishermen to different terms,, and fined them Tk89,700.
According to the fishermen, they have to sell ilish to earn their living. They have not been provided with government funding. They pay law enforcement and local influential people to catch fish— sometimes they even snatch fish from law enforcement after threatening them.
Abdur Razzak, a union parishad member of Afzalpur ward in Gohaliya Bari in Kalihati said:
"The people of Afzalpur earn their living by fishing. They do not get financial support from the government. If the government were to provide financial support then the illegal catching of fish could be easily stopped."
Assistant Police Superintendent of Tangail River Police Humayun Kabir Akand said: "We are regularly conducting drives to prevent the catching of mother ilish during breeding season.
"From October 7 till October 25, we arrested 21 fishermen – fining them around Tk98,300–; burned 501m of fishing net; and seized 213kg of ilish which we then distributed to orphanages and madrasas.
"We are regularly conducting drives to prevent the catching of mother ilish in breeding season.”
Tangail district Fisheries official Nurul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune: "the Jamuna River has been declared an ilish zone for the first time this year.
"As it was the first year, we could not properly take the necessary steps to prevent mother ilish fishing."
Responding to a query about ilish markets on Jamuna riverbank, he said they were conducting regular drives however some areas near the river are remote.
However, to stop fishermen from catching mother ilish, with the participation of: the district Fisheries Office, executive officials, magistrates, fisheries officials, and others who have been conducting the drives, the ban will continue until October 28.