Bangladesh’s Fishing Ban Leaves Coastal Cities in ‘Nightmare Scenario’


DHAKA, Bangladesh — This time of yr, Mohammad Shamsuddin usually earns about $120 a month working with the crew of a fishing boat off the coast of Bangladesh.

However on Monday, the central authorities imposed a 65-day nationwide ban on coastal fishing — probably the most restrictive ever in Bangladesh, a poor and densely populated nation the place fish play a central function within the financial system and weight loss program.

Mr. Shamsuddin, 30, promptly decreased by a couple of third the quantity of meals that he buys for himself, his spouse and their three kids.

“However I gained’t be capable to run my household for the subsequent two months with this little quantity of financial savings,” he mentioned by phone from Bhola District, a couple of 155-mile drive south from the capital, Dhaka. “And when the financial savings run dry, my life can be a nightmare.”

Officers say the ban, imposed throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, can be an annual one to assist preserve fish and shrimp shares over the long run. However fishermen throughout the nation are girding for hardship, and planning protests in Dhaka, if officers don’t supply them compensation.

“It is a nightmare state of affairs for an enormous variety of fishermen and their relations” as a result of costs sometimes rise in Bangladesh throughout Ramadan, mentioned Mokter Ahmed, a spokesman for the Nationwide Fishermen’s Affiliation in Cox’s Bazar, a port metropolis with about 200,000 fishermen.

He added that if the authorities can’t forestall unlawful fishing off the Bangladeshi coast by fleets from different Asian international locations, “the last word purpose of this ban won’t be achieved, and solely our fishermen will endure.”

Tensions over the 65-day ban spotlight how governments are struggling to steadiness a necessity for long-term conservation with these of coastal communities that rely on fish for short-term survival. Fish shares worldwide have been declining in recent times due to overfishing and ocean warming brought on by local weather change.

The tensions are significantly acute in Asia, which has seen a few of the steepest declines in fisheries productiveness as human populations that depend on fish as a significant protein supply have grown.

And Bangladesh, a rustic barely bigger than New York State that has greater than 160 million individuals, a couple of third of whom endure from meals insecurity, is a working example.

The nation produced practically 4 million metric tons of fish in 2016, a greater than fourfold improve from 1990, in line with World Financial institution knowledge. That was solely a fraction of China’s enormous output, however greater than Norway’s and South Korea’s, and practically as a lot as Japan’s.

However depletion of fish shares in Bangladesh, together with air pollution, unchecked coastal growth and different issues, has led to clear losses of biodiversity and prompted “an instantaneous want for transformation in coastal and marine governance,” two Bangladeshi scientists wrote in an instructional examine final yr.

As proof of a fisheries disaster mounts in Bangladesh, the federal government has mentioned it plans to completely flip no less than 10 % of coastal and marine areas into protected zones by 2020. It has rolled out a collection of weekslong fishing bans in some areas or for sure kinds of fish, together with hilsa, a staple of South Asian fisheries.

An analogous 65-day marine fishing ban alongside Bangladesh’s roughly 400-mile shoreline got here into impact in 2015, and solely utilized to industrial fleets. However the present ban, to be enforced by the Navy and Coast Guard, applies to fishing boats of any dimension.

“These assets will deplete at some point if we don’t use them sustainably,” Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru, the minister of fisheries and livestock, informed the Dhaka Tribune newspaper final week, referring to marine assets within the Bay of Bengal. “We should always let fish develop and breed. In any other case, we must endure sooner or later.”

Non permanent fisheries closures might help handle depleted fish shares when mixed with “applicable enforcement and alternate alternatives” for individuals who fish them, mentioned Simon Nicol, a senior fisheries officer on the United Nations meals company’s Asia headquarters in Bangkok.

“Rebuilt shares present a higher certainty of catch for fishers,” Mr. Nicol added.

However in Bangladesh, the place a couple of in 10 individuals work within the fisheries sector, officers haven’t introduced any plans to compensate fishermen affected by the 65-day ban. Fisheries officers in Dhaka didn’t reply to requests for remark.

Shah Alam Mollik, a consultant of the Bangladesh Fishing Boat Homeowners Affiliation, estimated that the ban had already plunged about 2.5 million individuals, together with fishermen and their households, into disaster.

Mr. Ahmed of the fishermen’s affiliation mentioned that many small-scale fishermen, who’re basically day laborers, would quickly have to borrow cash or face hunger if no compensation materializes. He added that fish provides in Cox’s Bazar have been already dwindling, and that individuals whose weight loss program revolves round fish will endure much more as soon as costs “contact the sky.”

However the ban might assist restore depleted fish shares within the Bay of Bengal, mentioned Mohammad Mahmudul Islam, a fisheries professor at Sylhet Agricultural College within the nation’s northeast, who was the co-writer of the current tutorial examine on Bangladeshi fisheries.

Many small-scale fishermen in coastal Bangladesh are susceptible as a result of they’re indebted to mortgage sharks for funding capital, he added, and their capacity to fish is commonly interrupted by cyclones and tropical storms. He mentioned it was essential that the federal government present rapid compensation.

Officers sometimes supply fishermen 44 kilos of rice per family throughout a 22-day annual ban on hilsa fishing that takes impact each October. However Mr. Islam mentioned that the ration is inadequate, and that the rice sometimes solely reaches about half of eligible recipients.

Final October, many fishermen throughout Bangladesh blatantly flouted the hilsa fishing ban. One fisheries officer informed the Dhaka Tribune on the time that 50 police sweeps in his district had turned up greater than 2,500 kilos of fish and 400,000 ft of netting.

Mr. Shamsuddin, the fisherman in Bhola District, mentioned he wouldn’t be fishing anytime quickly as a result of the boats he works on have been grounded.

He mentioned that extraordinarily poor fishermen like himself often subsist on rice, lentils and greens.“Now they must survive by consuming rice solely with salt,” he mentioned.

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