Hilsa stocks dwindling dangerously

THOUGH the government amended the Protection and Conservation of Fish Act (1950) in the year 2002 to ban the manufacture and marketing of gill nets in the country, legal battles have ensued that continue to this day. This has impeded the authorities’ ability to combat the rampant use of these nets all over the country to catch Hilsa fry. The practice is seriously impeding the natural repopulation of the most prized of fishes in Bangalee culture, the Hilsa. And it is not just the Hilsa that is facing impending doom, the gill net makes no distinction on other fish or aquatic mammals such as the dolphin and turtles, which too, get caught and die.

With the law the enforcement taking a backseat, factories producing gill nets has boomed in the district of Munshiganj. Investigative journalism by this paper informs us that there are some 500 factories in the district dedicated to the production of the net. That explains why the net commonly known as ‘current jaal’ is now used by fisher communities in every part of the country. While the department of fisheries conducts raids that apprehend fisherman and slap fines and prison sentences on them, these measures merely touch the tip of the iceberg. Until authorities figure out a way to implement the amended law to ban the manufacture of gill nets, the prized Hilsa spawn will continue to be caught and future stocks of the fish cannot be guaranteed.

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