Hilsa netting is set to resume on Thursday after the expiration of an 11 day ban imposed by the government, amid claims the move was successful in yielding the desired results.
The nationwide restriction – which also included marketing, selling and transportation of hilsa – was imposed to ensure a safe breeding and spawning environment for the fish.
The target was to prevent about 15m mother hilsa from being caught prematurely and about 46,800kg spawns from being destroyed.
Dr AKM Aminul Huq, divisional officer and deputy director of the department of fisheries in Barisal, claimed success on all fronts which, he said, was due to the “massive” anti-netting drives launched during the ban period.
He further said 490 mobile courts operated across the six districts of the division during the period and launched about 737 drives.
About 367 cases were lodged, 232 fishermen given prison sentences, Tk805,320 realised in fines, and 3.4m metres of current nets and 8,000kg illegally-netted hilsa seized.
On the other hand, an assistant sub-inspector under the Sharshi police station, Ranjan Das, was suspended on Wednesday for his alleged negligence in enforcing the ban terms.
AKM Ehsan Ullah, Barisal district police superintendent, confirmed the suspension news and said the action was taken following a complaint lodged by the Coast Guard authorities.
However, hilsa sellers and exporters claimed that they had suffered “huge losses” because of the restriction.
“There are thousands of people engaged in different capacities in hilsa trades. There are fisherpersons, trawler-owners, fish processors, net lenders, those involved with ice factories, and so on. We all suffered huge losses,” said Ajit Das Monu, president of Barisal Hilsa Exporters Association and Barisal Fish Wholesalers Association.
Israil Pandit, president of Bangladesh Khudra Matasyajibi Samity, urged the government to pay compensation to low-income fisherpersons who were “affected” during the drives.
In Barisal, the ban was effective across the 7,000sq-km stretch of spawning grounds earmarked by the fisheries department.
Hilsa, despite being a sea fish, lays eggs in rivers and estuaries, and large numbers of the fish are caught as they move to the Padma-Meghna-Jamuna delta for this purpose.
Fisheries officials believe if only 50% of the lain eggs can be saved while in embryo, more than 29m jatka (hilsa fry) can be produced every year. A jatka generally grows 2-2.5cm in length per month and starts a seaward journey after reaching 15-17cm. It moves back to sweet waters after growing to an adult size of 25-28cm.
“There is a year-round restriction against netting jatka—below 23cm in length—throughout the country and saving 10-20% of them would mean about 200,000 more hilsa every year,” said the district fisheries officer Wahiduzzaman.