- Fishing in Bay of Bengal resumes after 65 days
- Fishermen getting big hilsa as fish grew in size during ban
- 68,000 trawlers already fishing in the sea
- 6 lakh tonnes of hilsa to be caught this year
- Hilsa to be netted until October 11
- After catching around 3,000 hilsa fish in the Bay of Bengal, Fazlullah, the owner of the fishing trawler MV Bismillah, is elated.
Following a break of 65 days, the MV Bismillah went to sea on the morning of July 24. It netted fish for two nights before returning to the Fishery Ghat fish market in Chattogram.
"Each hilsa weighs around 1-1.5 kilogrammes. I have not seen such big hilsa in the last two decades," Fazlullah told The Business Standard.
Other trawler owners echoed his view as fishing resumed in the Bay of Bengal following a long lull. Trawlers loaded with hilsa are returning to the market every day. The collection of fish mostly includes big hilsa.
Aminul Haque Babul Sarker, general secretary of Sonali Jantrik Matsya Shilpa Samabay Samity, said the trawlers went to the deep sea after the ban on catching fish had been lifted.
He said the small trawlers had returned after the first trip and it was mostly big hilsa that had been netted.
"In the past, trawlers would return after 10-15 days. They are returning earlier this time as they catch more hilsa."
Babul said strict enforcement of the fisheries policy has been fruitful, and the number of trawlers is rising as the sea now has more fish.
"Usually in the past, 180-200 trawlers would return every day. Now the number is between 350 and 380."
There is a festive mood in the fishermen communities as coastal ghats in the port city have an abundant supply of hilsa.
Upendra Jaldas, vice-president of Uttar Chattala Upakuliya Jaldas Samabay Kalyan Samity, told The Business Standard that the hilsa have grown in size as fishing remained banned for a long period.
"I would get hilsa weighing 500-800 grammes in the past. Now I catch fish that mostly weighs 1-1.5 kilogrammes."
At Fishery Ghat, per kg hilsa weighing 800-1,000 grammes is selling for Tk550-650 at the wholesale level.
Md Shajahan, a fish trader at Fishery Ghat, said the number of customers had dropped due to the coronavirus pandemic this year.
It is likely that hilsa price will also fall as a result, he said.
Bangladesh is the world's largest producer of hilsa. The country boasts 85 percent of the total global hilsa production. Production is also rising every year.
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, hilsa production was 5.17 lakh tonnes in the 2018-19 fiscal year, and 5 lakh tonnes in 2016-17. In 2008-09, the figure was 2.98 lakh tonnes.
At present, hilsa contributes 1.15 percent to the country's gross domestic product (GDP). In monetary terms, the contribution amounts to Tk7,500 crore.
Officials of the marine fisheries department said 68,000 trawlers had already sailed to catch a wide variety of fish, including hilsa.
They said six lakh tonnes of hilsa would be netted this year, up by 83,000 tonnes compared to the amount netted last year.
Latifur Rahman, director of the marine fisheries department, told The Business Standard that fishermen had returned to the sea after the ban on fishing had been withdrawn.
He said the government had banned netting all kinds of fish in the sea for 65 days a year, hilsa for 22 days and jatka (premature hilsa) for six months.
This is why the fish are growing in size and fishermen are getting big fish, said Latifur.
He said fishermen would catch hilsa for three months until October 11 without interruption.
"They will then stop when the breeding season starts."
Dr Shahadat Hossain, professor of marine sciences and fisheries at the University of Chattogram, said the 65-day ban had produced good results, but scientific methods should be used to catch fish in order to sustain the positive outcomes of the ban.
"The government first has to conduct surveys to find sources of marine resources. Then, modern fishing methods have to be adopted in addition to using trawlers."
The professor explained that modern methods can acquire marine resources from a depth of 40 metres whereas the limit is only 11 metres for trawlers.
"If modern fishing methods are not introduced, we will not enjoy the full range of benefits of the 65-day ban."
Bangladesh is now the world's second largest producer of fish. The fishing industry contributes four percent to the GDP.
43.34 lakh tonnes of fish were produced in the 2017-18 fiscal year, and 6.54 lakh tonnes (16 percent of total production) of those came from the sea.
The country earned Tk4,310 crore by exporting fish and fisheries in 2017-18 fiscal year.