Different agencies of the government – from the fisheries department to law enforcement agencies – have been raiding fishermen for using gillnets or current nets since a ban imposed on it two decades ago, but authorities have failed to stop the production of the harmful fishing gear and its sales.
Take coastal district Lakhsmipur for example. The Fisheries Department there conducted 270 drives and burnt 25 lakh metres of current nets worth Tk4.5 crore during the 22-day fishing ban in October this year.
On 19 November, a boat was found lying idle on the bank of the River Meghna in Nasirganj area of Kamalnagar upazila.
"The naval police seized our net [current net] worth Tk2.5 lakh just two days after our new boat had sailed. Now, we 12 fishermen are unemployed. The boat owner is unable to buy a new fishing net," Amir, a fisherman of the boat, told The Business Standard (TBS).
"This type of net is popular because no fish can escape it. All small and big fish are caught in this net. Moreover, it is easy to carry and cost effective," said fisherman Azgar from the same upazila.
"Okay, we are doing wrong. The government is punishing us. But the factories producing the nets and the traders selling in the market are not brought to book. They do their business without hindrance. Where is the government action against them?" questioned Kashem, another fisherman.
"The government enforcement is one-sided and an oppression on us," he told TBS.
They also said coastal retailers are selling current nets without any restriction.
Contacted, Lakshmipur Fisheries Officer Aminur Islam said monofilament fishing net or current net is one of the reasons for the extinction of freshwater and marine fish, which is why the government banned the production, transportation, marketing, storage and use of it by amending a 1950 law in 2002.
"However, the use of current nets could not be stopped. We run raids in the river on a regular basis but its use cannot be stopped if its production continues."
The lion's share of current nets sold across the country are produced in different villages of Munshiganj, particularly in the Muktarpur and Sadar upazilas, and distributed from Old Dhaka's Chawkbazar.
Contacted, Mohi Uddin, former president of the recently dissolved trade body, Munshiganj District Net Manufacturers Association, told TBS they continued production of current net long after the government banned it in 2002 by law.
"We managed to do that by filing about 56 lawsuits against the government move. But in 2015, the High Court dismissed all our cases and ordered a stop to producing current nets."
"It's true that the net is still being produced. Some 70-80 factories are doing that secretly."
Contacted, Department of Fisheries Director General Kh Mahbubul Haque told The Business Standard that they conduct regular drives against current net production.
"However, there are some manufacturers who produce current nets secretly at their homes. They are isolated, which is why it is tough to find them. Even the trade of the net is being done secretly."
Besides, some current net-producing machines are able to manufacture nets that have valid uses. So they cannot be brought to book all the time, he added and said, "We will conduct a special drive next week as you [The Business Standard] have raised the issue yet again."
The official urged all to raise their voice against the production of the harmful net. "There is one kind of dilemma; many believe that it is the task of the fisheries department or police to ensure stopping the production. But, we all can be aware and inform authorities if we find anyone making the net."