No fish will be left to catch, expert warns Bangladesh

February 1st, 2011 - 1:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Sheikh Hasina Dhaka, Feb 1 (IANS) No hilsa, not even fish will be left to catch in the Bay of Bengal, an expert has warned as the Bangladesh government prepared to issue 30 fresh licences for fishing, a media report said Tuesday.The government will award the licences without any survey of the already dwindling reserve. Bangladesh shares the bay with neighbours India and Myanmar and several foreign trawlers from Asia-Pacific region also fish in the region.

The expert’s alarm came at a time when 44,000 fishing boats and 170 trawlers skim the bay every day with sea-floor-scraping nets that scoop up everything on the way, causing over-fishing.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government is set to overlook the warnings issued by a committee. The panel’s warning were also ignored in 2002 by then Khaleda Zia government that had issued 50 licences.

Most of those who were awarded the licences sold them for five million taka ($70,621). The licences changed many hands and those who finally began fishing paid double that amount, the Daily Star said.

Fisheries experts say the move to allow more trawlers might be disastrous because of a rapid depletion of fish stocks in the bay, home to 65 commercially important fish species and 36 shrimp species.

They warn that awarding new licences would also be disastrous for the existence of hilsa that is consumed and exported in a big way, and is considered the `national fish’ by Bangladesh.

“What I feel is that this is a plot to destroy marine fish stocks. There will be no fish to catch. Everything will vanish in five to seven years,” said Mohammed Abdul Kader of the Institute of Marine Sciences and Fisheries, the University of Chittagong.

“If more trawlers are allowed for mid-water fishing, they will catch both mid-water and surface water fish thanks to the type of nets they use. It will deplete the existing stock,” he added.

A study by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on Bangladesh also shows that fish resources are on the decline due to environmental degradation and other activities such as over-exploitation of in-shore fisheries.

“It hits traditional fishermen. They are not getting adequate fish to make ends meet as industrial trawlers are moving to catch fish in low depth areas,” Kader said.

“If you allow mid-water trawling, hilsa will also disappear because all types of hilsa…will be caught,” he said.

However, Mohammed Mahbubur Rahman Khan, director general of the Department of Fisheries, claimed the decvision to grant new licences came on the basis of past catch data.

“We have seen that catches of existing trawlers are not dropping. Based on the data, the government has decided to issue new licences,” he told the newspaper.

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