Indian fishermen intrude into Bangladesh water, catch hilsa

M Jasim Uddin, Barisal & Amin Sohel, Patharghata | Update:

Indian fishermen are entering about 110 kilometres inside the Bangladesh maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal to catch hilsha, especially at a time when Bangladesh fishermen are barred from catching the delicious fish.

Local fishermen also alleged that the Indian fishermen often intrude into Bangladesh's fishing zone during the peak season of hilsha catching and now they are taking advantage of absence of Bangladeshi fishermen during the period of ban on fishing.

The government has imposed a ban on catching, sales and transportation of hilsa for 22 days from 1 October to October 22 in order to save mother hilsa during the breeding and thus increase national hilsa output.

Fishermen from Barisal, Barguna and Patuakhali districts have alleged that they have seen innumerable Indian trawlers waiting near the Bangladesh zone. They fear the Indian fishermen will catch fish indiscriminately within the Bangladesh boundary during the period of ban.

“We have seen hundreds of Indian trawlers waiting at the east side of Baleshwar Isle, Fairway Boya [Buoy] and Mongla Boya," said Abul Kalam, sailor of a trawler, which returned to Barguna from the Bay.

"They even chased a few of our trawlers. They were waiting for the return of Bangladeshi trawlers during the period of ban,” the sailor alleged.

Several other sailors also shared similar experience with Prothom Alo.

“The benefits of ban would be lost unless the government can stop them [Indian fishermen] from fishing,” one of them said.

The owner of a fishing trawler from Pathaghata of Barguna, Kalam Khan, said the Indian fishermen catch fish as a team.

"They throw nets after detecting with machine the presence of fish. They even threaten Bangladeshi fishermen using mike and sometimes torture them,” he added.

FB Hamim trawler’s sailor Mati said he has seen an Indian fishing trawler near Sonarchar of Galachipa upazila in Patuakhali, within 110 kms of Bangladesh maritime boundary. He also named an Indian trawler as FB Pushpanjali which he saw fishing in that area on 25 August and captured a photo of it with his mobile phone.

FB Yasin trawler’s sailor Jashim from Patharghata echoed the same experience. “I have video-taped Indian trawler FB Ma Basanti fishing near Sonarchar of Galachipa upazila in Patuakhali district,” he said.

A huge amount of jatka were seen piled up on the deck of FB Ma Basanti trawler. Jashim said he had shot the video in June this year.

Indian fishermen have been fishing within Bangladesh boundary for the last few years, said Patharghata Fish Wholesalers’ Association general secretary Jahangir Hossain Jamaddar.

"They [Indian fishermen] beat up and torture our fishermen for protesting their act," he alleged.

The Bangladesh fishermen staged a procession and formed a human chain in Patharghata on 28 July 2015 protesting at the intrusion of Indian fishermen into Bangladesh's fishing zone.

They handed over a memorandum to the prime minister in this connection.

"Tthe situation hasn’t improved since then. Rather, the Indian fishermen’s tendency to intrude Bangladeshi maritime area during the peak season of hilsa has intensified these days,”Jahangir Hossain Jamaddar pointed out.

When contacted, mission commander of the Coast Guard’s southern region (Mongla) lieutenant Hayat Ibne Siddique said, “I have been working here for six months. I have seen 15 Indian trawlers intruding Bangladesh boundary in the meantime.

We have intercepted them and sent them to their boundary.”

“We remain alert. But the navy works at deep sea. [Indian fishermen] may have intruded there more. We shall inform the Navy authorities of the intrusion of the Indian fishermen,” he added.

He mentioned that they are holding joint meetings with Indian Coast Guards every year to discuss such matters.

* This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza.

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