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16 July, 2019 00:00 00 AM

Overlooking environmental anomalies in fisheries development

Environmental crimes are now becoming a serious problem worldwide
Polin Kumar Saha and Susmita Das Rimi
Overlooking environmental anomalies 
in fisheries development

Environmental crimes are illegal acts which directly harms the environment. It poses a grave threat to our environment. Environmental crime is now becoming a serious problem worldwide in different forms of activities including in Bangladesh. Some of these are like the most common crimes against the environment connecting with the unlawful exploitation of wild flora and fauna, industrial waste disposal and its trade. Sometimes the fishing sector is ignored with its proper assessment of the environmental impacts of the fish trade development. Over the major environmental crimes of this trade, industrial water or soil pollution and some man-made practices have adverse impacts in fishing or its related development. The illegality in many of our daily activities may include mainly fish catching, fish feed, fishing materials, dumping and illicit trade in hazardous waste into water; unreported and unregulated fishing and over fishing of protected species.

However, fisheries crime is certainly an ill-defined legal concept referring to a range of illegal activities in the fisheries sector in Bangladesh. As we are committed to achieve SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) by the stipulated timeframe, we must give our attention to some of our illegal activities that could be designated as environmental crimes in this sector in Bangladesh.  

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing: Illegal fishing has been a major problem in Bangladesh. However, as marine ecosystems decline, unregulated fishing is causing a greater impact than it previously did. When illegal fishermen flood the markets with their unregulated catches, the prices of fish decrease. This causes an economic decline of the legal fish trade and the worsening of ecological conditions for marine life. Most of the fishermen of Bangladesh catch fish in illegal way. They don’t follow any rules and regulations in fishing activities. For example, the government has imposed a 22-day ban on catching, selling of Hilsa from 7 October to 28 October to ensure the safe spawning of this popular fish and save mother Ilish during breeding period. Furthermore, State Minister for Fisheries and Livestock has strictly enforced the 65-day ban on fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Bay of Bengal from May 20 to July 23 to ensure safe breeding and conservation of fish and shrimp.

Use of current nets: Current net is the commonly used for small-mesh monofilament gillnets in Bangladesh. These 1.5-2-inch mesh nets are found practically everywhere in the country. They are extremely versatile, easy to use, relatively cheap, and do not require great skill or knowledge of fishing techniques, and are very efficient. However, it is also destructive for fisheries resources, catching many juvenile and immature fish.As a result, many larvae, fry species face a great threat to survive.

Catching fishes in banning/breeding period: Breeding period varies from both season to season and species to species. Hilsa is one of the important and commercial fish all over the world. It plays a vital role in GDP of Bangladesh. The contribution of Hilsa in country’s total fish production is 12% and its contribution to GDP is more than 1%. The government has established six Ilish sanctuaries across the country where fishing is prohibited from March to April except Andharmanik sanctuary. In this sanctuary, fishing is prohibited from November-January. However, local commercial fishermen catch marine fishes including Ilish during banning period.

Using poison, explosive, gun, spear to kill fish in inland waters or within coastal territorial waters: Some fishermen use many destructive gears, traps, hooks for catching fish which is very harmful for fishes. A lot of fishes die due to using these types of gears during catch.

There are allegations of fishing by poisoning and explosives in some areas of the Sundarbans.

Use of minimum mesh size fishing nets: Several types of mesh size nets are used in fishing. Moreover, different types of nets are used for catching different species. For example, ‘Poa Jal’ is used to catch Poa, ‘Ilish Jal’ for catching Ilish etc. These nets vary in mesh size. But fishermen don’t maintain these mesh size for catching specific species. For this reason, fry and juveniles are caught in nets which become harmful in future.

Catching unauthorized size of fish: Nobody can catch, transport or sell the following fishes during the specific period and under specific size: Catching of Rui, Katla, Mrigel, Kalbaus and Gonia under the size of 23cm during November to May is prohibited. But fishermen don’t maintain this act. They catch both small and large indigenous species round the year.

Transferring or selling authorized trade licence of fishing for profit: Fishermen sell their authorized licence to another fisherman for business which is prohibited. They become benefitted by selling their licence. There is an ordinance regarding this issue that is ‘’No licence shall be transferable except with the written permission of the Director endorsed upon such licence’’ (Marine Fisheries Ordinance, 1983).

We have environmental rules, biodiversity conservation rules, fisheries law or other relevant acts, where fisheries law is an emerging and specialized area of all the existing laws.

Fisheries law is the study and analysis of different fisheries management approaches. Some act and rules have been conducted for preventing above mentioned crimes. Some rules should be considered for minimizing the crimes like: 1.

The use of current nets should be banned because it is one of the most harmful nets and is responsible for the decline in fish population in rivers, flood plains and reservoirs; 2. Catching of Jhatka has to be restricted strictly; 3. Fishing in sanctuary during breeding period should be maintained rigorously; 4. Trade licence should be banned if it is transferred from one person to another person; 5. Fishing area should be specified/confined based on region to reduce over fishing; 6. Fishing gears, trawlers should be quantified in a specific region for sustainable fishery.

An environmental crime is a violation of environmental laws that are put into place to protect the environment. Now it has become a serious threat in Bangladesh.

We have to continue with mitigation measures on above mentioned steps and if needed, we should reform our relevant policy, act or strategy, or to integrate different policies in overcoming the environmental challenges of this industry. We have to understand and address environmental crimes in all the relevant department of the fishing sector.

The impacts to the natural environment (illegal logging, fishing), including ecosystems, flora, and fauna, are often extensive and long lasting.

All people should be concerned regarding this matter. The government and private sector should take necessary steps to stop or minimize these crimes at a level.

The writers are environmental professionals;



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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