A workshop attended by delegations from Bengal and Bangladesh has come up with suggestions to arrest the decline in the hilsa catch, especially on this side of the border.
The recommendations for Bengal include:
nBan on hilsa fishing for 10 days in October-November within 10km of designated breeding zones. Fishermen to be compensated for the loss.
nBan on catching baby hilsas and fishing within 5km of the Farakka barrage as most hilsas swimming upstream gather there.
nIdentify hilsa spawning sites away from the conventional ones in the estuaries of the Matla, Thakuran and the Raimangal.
nThe departments of environment and fisheries be asked to jointly monitor the pollution in the hilsa routes.
The recommendations were presented at the workshop by Sugata Hazra of Jadavpur University and Niamul Naser of Dhaka University.
“We will consider the recommendations and try to work with Bangladesh to save hilsa. We have also taken note of the Bangladeshi initiatives that have succeeded in increasing the yield of the fish there,” state junior fisheries minister Subrata Saha said on the sidelines of the workshop.
A study conducted by institutions of the two countries, and sponsored by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, has revealed that the hilsa catch in Bengal has gone down from 80,000 tonnes a year to 20,000 tonnes in the 10 years since 2001. During the same period, the yield in Bangladesh had increased from 2.25 lakh tonnes to around 3.5 lakh tonnes.
An expert in Calcutta said the winter ban on fishing was the “most significant” of all recommendations. “It’s success is linked to the livelihood support to the fishermen. If such support can be given in Bangladesh, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, why not in Bengal.”
The participants in the workshop suggested that the ban on catching hilsas be enforced simultaneously on both sides of the border. They also stressed the need for dredging the Padma-Meghna and the Hooghly, reduce river pollution and cut down the number of mechanised fishing trawlers deployed at the estuaries during in-migration of the fish.
“Unless we work jointly, hilsa will become history soon,” said a parliamentarian from Bangladesh.
“The two sides will soon meet to discuss how far the recommendations can be implemented,” said Shamsul Kibria, the joint secretary (fisheries) in Bangladesh and a participant in the workshop.