Though the ban on fishing Hilsa for 87 days in two phases has increased Hilsa production in Bangladesh, it also badly affected 1.6 million fishermen as the government’s measures to help the fishermen during those workless days were not enough.
Fishermen and development workers at a discussion on the impact of the fishing ban called on the government to increase coverage of government measures to help fishermen and ensure alternative employment for them during the ban period.
Coast Trust organised the discussion at CIRDAP auditorium in the capital.
Since 2015, Hilsa fishing has been banned for 65 days from May 20 in the Bay of Bengal and for 22 days from October 9 in rivers.
‘The ban together with rough weather keep fishermen off their livelihood roughly for six months a year now,’ said Mizanur Rahman Bahadur, member, Cox’s Bazar Fishing Boat Association.
‘How the fishermen are expected to survive,’ he said.
The ban pushed many fishermen into poverty and debt traps as a sudden fall in income made it more difficult for fishermen to repay loans taken at high interests from microcredit lenders, said the keynote paper presented at the discussion.
The fall in the income also forced fishermen to cut their health and education expenditures, it added.
About four lakh fishermen were receiving 40 kg of rice each in a month during the ban although the number of fishermen affected by the ban would be twice as many.
Fishermen who attended the discussion complained that they often receive less rice because of nepotism by local government representatives to distribute those among their followers.
Nure Alam, a fisherman from Patharghata in Barguna, said though the ban was on Hilsa fishing only but authorities often did not allow them to venture into the sea for fishing other species.
Speakers said that the fishing ban however could not be implemented fully with Indian fishermen fishing illegally in territorial waters of Bangladesh in absence of proper surveillance in the sea.
Manusher Jonno Foundation executive director Shahin Anam said the government’s decision to ban Hilsha fishing was timely to increase Hilsa production but the government should also ensure that the ban did not push fishermen into poverty.
Fisheries and livestock state minister Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru said that the government had plans for gradually increasing their coverage are of helping fishermen affected by the ban.
Fisheries department director general Abu Sayed Md Rashedul Haque and its director Abul Hasnat also spoke at the discussion, among others.
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