Fishermen barred from fishing ilish during a ban of 22 days have not received the compensation of 20kgs of rice promised by the government.
Dhaka Trbiune’s local correspondents from Barisal, Bhola, Faridpur and Manikganj report that not a single fisherman has received the compensation as of Monday, the 14th day of the moratorium to protect ilish spawn.
The local correspondents report that authorities had punished a good number of fishermen with fines and even jail terms for violating the ban.
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Fisherman Shahid Majhi, from Bhola, one of the largest ilish yielding spots in Bangladesh, told Dhaka Tribune on Monday that the district administration had promised fishermen 20kgs of rice through the Union Parishad as compensation for not fishing during the ban. “But none of us have received it yet.”
Pointing out that 20kgs was rather negligible as compensation, Shahid said they are still only being given assurances that the compensation will be given out soon. “I need it now, when I don’t have an income. I won’t need it a month later, when I will be able to fish again.”
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Fishermen unloading ilish fishes from boats at an unidentified location Dhaka Tribune
“On one hand they don’t let us carry on with our livelihoods and don’t keep their promise. On the other hand they send us to jail for carrying on with our livelihoods. This is unfair.”
Another fisherman, Kawsar Ali, also from Bhola said, the government has introduced a card for fishermen for the compensation. But many of the real fishermen did not receive those cards, he said. “The Union Parishad gave the cards to their own people.”
Khukon Chnadra Shil, a Bhola-based NGO worker said: “It is really difficult for the poor fishermen to be out of work for even a day as they live from hand to mouth. The compensation package is rather dismal.”
What is worse, the fishermen would not be getting the fully package either because of pilferage.
“For instance,” he said, “during the previous ban, to protect the juvenile ilish, fishermen were supposed to get 40kgs of rice. But they only got something like 30kgs.”
Jahid Habib, head of ilish conservation in Bangladesh said: “The allegation of not getting the compensation in time is true to some extent as the coastal areas are remote. It takes a lot of time for the goods to get there.”
Regarding the volume he said, the government had to act within its means.
He explained that this moratorium to protect ilish spawn has been in place for several years. “But this is the first time that the government announced a compensation package simply because the government could not manage the resources.”
Admitting that the compensation package was rather “negligible”, he pointed out that this year, the Disaster and Relief Ministry allocated 20kgs of rice for 350,000 fishermen dependent on ilish.
Bangladesh government introduced moratoria on ilish fishing since early 2000s.
The current ban, the one for projecting spawn is in force at all ilish roaming areas, since 2007, during October each year.
Dr Anisur Rahman, Chief Scientific Officer of Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute said ilish conservation will not work properly unless the compensation package is meaningful for those deprived due to the ban. “They must have an alternative to sustain themselves.”
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A wholesale depot of ilish fishes at an unidentified location Dhaka Tribune
Considering the crisis, the government is in the process of setting up a ilish Conservation Trust Fund (HCTF) for better conservation, introducing alternative livelihoods to the coastal fishermen.
Anisur Rahman, said this trust fund would help secure alternative livelihoods for about 2.5 million fishermen.
According to the Department of Fisheries, ilish contributes around 11% of the total fish yield of Bangladesh contributing almost 1% to Bangladesh GDP.
According to World Fish report published of October 2015, Bangladesh leads global ilish production, accounting for 65% of the total global catch, followed by India with about 15% and Myanmar with another 10%.
Almost half a million fishermen are directly involved with ilish fishing in Bangladesh. Livelihoods of another 2 million people are indirectly involved.