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Poverty is Endangering the Prized Hilsa Fish in Bangladesh

August 12, 2016 |


Fishermen along the Meghna river are forced to violate the ban on catching the fish during the breeding season due to high levels of poverty.

“Hilsa is one of the most important fish in the Bay of Bengal, which has traditional importance in the Bengali culture, apart from being economically and nutritionally significant. More than half a million coastal fishermen directly depend on it for their livelihood and nearly three million people in Bangladesh are involved in trading, processing, transportation and marketing of hilsa fish. But, according to research organisation World Fish, the fish stock is under threat mostly due to rapid siltation in the riverbeds and over-exploitation of brood and juvenile hilsa, locally known as jatka.

Hilsa production was around 2,20,000 metric tonnes in the 2001-02 fiscal year and it increased to 3,87,000 metric tonnes in 2013-14 – a 75% increase – Syed Arif Azad, the Director General of the Department of Fisheries, told This rise in production has not changed the desperate straits in which Bangladeshi fishermen find themselves. Forced into a choice between penury and illegality, they choose to break the law, trying to earn a little more by catching the juvenile hilsa.

“We know very well that catching jatka is illegal but many of us violate the ban,” said Miah. “We go fishing during the period it is banned, as there is a job drought, and the mahajans [local money lenders] force us to pay back loan instalments…””

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