Fish traders in the city are keenly waiting for clearance from Bangladesh’s ministry of commerce to receive their supply of ilish ahead of Puja. The domestic yield has been very poor this year and the stock of the Myanmar variety of the fish is almost over.
Last September, the Bangladesh government had allowed fish traders to export hilsa to Kolkata. With little supply from Bengal’s own waters, fish traders from the wholesale markets of Kolkata and Howrah are now banking on a Bangladeshi ‘goodwill gesture’ like last year.
“We are desperate for some supply from Bangladesh. The domestic supply of hilsa is negligible. The variety of hilsa from Myanmar was the only hope but the stock of that is almost over now,” said Syed Anwar Maqsood, secretary, West Bengal Fish Importers’ Association. “We have been talking to our counterparts in Dhaka to figure out the situation there.”
The production of hilsa in Bengal has dwindled from around 80,000 tonnes in 2001 to around 10,000 tonnes in 2017, largely because of excess fishing in the Bay of Bengal.
“From around 37,000 tonnes of hilsa around three years ago, the catch has been going down steadily. This year it won’t be more than 1,000 tonnes,” said Bijan Maity, secretary, Kakdwip Fishermen Welfare Association.
The Bengal government has banned fishing of hilsa between April 15 and June 14, the breeding season of the fish.
Bangladesh has been able to check the declining hilsa population by banning fishing during the breeding period and establishing sanctuaries.
“We had a good catch even this year and till a few weeks back, hilsa was affordable. The price has slowly started rising now,” said Kazi Abdul Manna, director of Seven Star Fish Processing Limited, from Pabna in Bangladesh.
Manna said around 100 traders from Bangladesh had applied to the ministry of commerce in Dhaka for permission to export hilsa to Kolkata this year.