The Government of Bangladesh imposed a ban on all types of fishing near its coastal region, which entered into force on May 20 and will last until July 23, 2019, to ensure the safe and sustainable accumulation of fish stocks. The coast guard and the Navy will be patrolling the Gulf of Bengal to enforce the ban. However, for fishing communities, which mostly rely on this activity to survive daily, this decision is a blow. Although the Government promised to provide food rations monthly to affected fishermen, they expressed their frustrations and the difficulties they will face during the next two months
Fishing in Bangladesh
Traditionally, Bangladesh relies on fishing to feed an estimated population of 163 million people. More than 60% of the intake of animal protein in the Bangladeshi diet comes from fish. The country has an exclusive economic zone of 65 983.10 square kilometers in the Gulf of Bengal, which constitutes 73% of the country's total land and sea areas. There are approximately 475 species of fish, 36 species of shrimp, 15 species of crab and 301 species of snail and oyster in the Gulf of Bengal, among others; and about 100 species are captured for commercialization. It is estimated that there are two million fishermen throughout the country and about 18.2 million people working in fishmongers and aquaculture industries. Almost 500,000 fishermen generate their livelihoods in the coastal region.
In recent years the population of fish worldwide began to decline due to overfishing and the effects of climate change. This is also the case in Bangladesh, where short-term commercial fishing bans have been applied in defined areas in recent years, but this is the first time that they restrict the activity of all fishing vessels for a prolonged period. The restriction includes local fishermen who work in rivers and seas. The authorities affirmed that this prohibition will be applied constantly in the following years during the season of fish mating to increase its population.
Fisheries and Livestock Minister Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru told the media:
These resources will deplete one day if we do not use them sustainably. We should let fish grow and breed. Otherwise, we will have to suffer in the future.
These resources will run out someday if we do not use them sustainably. We must allow the fish to develop and reproduce. Otherwise, we will have to suffer in the future
In October 2018, the Government banned the fishing of the national fish Sábalo hilsa (Tenualosa ilisha) for 22 days to allow her to lay her eggs and migrate from the Bay of Bengal to the Meghna River and other river systems. The information collected by WorldFish from the sanctuaries of the shabal hilsa showed that total fishing increased by 28%, from 387 211 metric tons to 496 417 metric tons during the 2015 and 2016 fishing seasons because similar bans were implemented.
In March 2019, the Government imposed a 60-day ban on fishing for all kinds of fish in the Padma, Meghna and tributary rivers that are adjacent to the Chandpur, Bhola and Lakshmipur areas. He also banned fishing on Lake Kaptai, which is the largest man-made in Bangladesh, for three months.
‘Conservation against community rights’
The old dilemma of #conservation rules vs community rights: Fishermen & #fish traders bring out a boat procession on #Khakdhon #River in the coastal district Barguna, #Bangladesh, demanding cancellation of the 65-day blanket ban on #Hilsa netting Photo: Daily Star, April 29th. pic.twitter.com/D4WLEPHpRJ
– Sheikh Rokon (@skrokon) April 29, 2019
The old dilemma of conservation norms against community rights: fishermen and fish traders organize a procession of boats on the Khakdhon River, in the coastal district of Barguna, Bangladesh, to demand the cancellation of the general 65-day ban About fishing for tarpon hilsa with net. Photography: Daily Star, April 29, 2019.
For a long time, local fishing communities have opposed these restrictions. Through demonstrations of anger and protests in the streets of the coastal region, they expressed their dissatisfaction with the current ban. According to the Association of Fishing Boat Owners of Bangladesh (BFBOA), many small-scale fishers are day laborers who need to borrow money or their families will starve if the Government does not give any compensation.
The Government allocated 36,000 metric tons of rice to be distributed among the affected communities. He plans to ration 40 kilograms of rice per month for 414,784 fishermen and their families in 12 districts. However, they were reminded the authorities that distributing only one type of food is not enough to support their families adequately.
Anwar Hossain Sikder, member secretary of BFBOA, added that the ban will grant too many advantages to fishing companies in neighboring nations:
The ban on fishing in 200 nautical miles of the sea is only benefiting Indian and Myanmar traders and fishermen.
The ban on fishing in 200 nautical miles from the sea only benefits traders and fishermen in India and Myanmar.
In social media, some netizens are in favor of conserving the haliquatic resources, while others highlight the need to save the livelihood of fishermen in distress. Asif Saif Uddin, professional in the field of information technologies, demanded the creation of alternative jobs for displaced fishers:
ভাল উদ্যোগ…। তবে জেলেদের বিকল্প আয়ের বাবস্থা করা উচিৎ… https://t.co/u91QlYQT9D
– Asif Saif Uddin (@auvipy) May 20, 2019
It is a good strategy. But they should also try to create alternative job opportunities for affected fishermen.
Osman Ghani, a Bangladeshi who lives abroad, wrote on Facebook about the problem of compensation for fishermen:
সরকারের দাবী, এই সময় মাছ ধরা বন্ধ রাখলে মাছের সংখ্যা বাড়ে।
কিন্তু কথা হলো, যদি মাছের সংখ্যা না বাড়ে তখন কি হবে?
তখন কি সরকার দরিদ্র জেলেদের এর জন্য ভতুর্কি দেবে?
আপনি একটা গরিব মানুষের কাজ বন্ধ রাখলেন, বললেন- এর মাধ্যমে আপনার বাকি সময় আয় বাড়বে।
কিন্তু যদি না বাড়ে, তখন এর দায় কে নেবে?
The Government states that the fishing ban (during the mating season) increases the fish population.
But what would happen if it turns out to be false? Will the poor fishermen receive any compensation? They impose a ban on the work of the poor on the grounds that their future income will increase. If that does not happen, who will take responsibility?
Many comments share a similar concern regarding the implementation of measures that help fishers:
Not endorsing Bangladesh’s temporary fishing ban b / c only the poor will suffer.
Still, it’s never those who cause global market collapse / systemic failure who seek solutions, whether the solutions are good / bad. It’s only ever those at risk who make change. https://t.co/itO9s79eaW
– Khal Khanté (@uhreeb) May 20, 2019
Bangladesh bans fishing for 65 days to save fish.
Bangladesh has banned fishing on its shores for 65 days to boost depleted fish stores.
I do not support the temporary ban on fishing in Bangladesh because only the poor will suffer.
In spite of everything, those that cause the collapse of the global market / systematic failure never propose a solution, be it good or bad. It is always those who are at risk who generate the change.
The issue is how will the government sustain the people who rely on fishing during the ban. You cannot save one without saving the other or both will ultimately fail. And one ban will not save either.
Bangladesh bans fishing for 65 days to save fish https://t.co/v1LcUfP3vE
– TheTraceTaylor (@TheOneTrace) May 20, 2019
The problem is how the Government will keep people who depend on fishing during the ban. They cannot save one without saving the other, or the two will not survive in the end. And a ban will not save them either.