High seas shouldn't be havens for crime

Fishermen on the high seas have to brave all sorts of dangers, even risking their lives due to the dangers all around. On the day after Eid, a sunken trawler was retrieved with 10 rotting bodies aboard. It was evident that they had been killed in a brutal attack.

While navigating the high seas has in general become safe due to the technological advancements and modern management system, we remain lagging behind. Officially we recognise the importance of blue economy for our national growth, but this is not reflected in our actions. Our fishermen still risk their lives when they take to the seas for their catch.

It is not just the natural disaster like cyclones with which they have to struggle. They have to face robbers, pirates and other fierce foes. According to an international report on the safety of fishermen, over 1,350 fishermen in Bangladesh die at sea simply due to the lack of safety equipment. This number will go up if robbery, piracy and other security issues are also taken into account. That is why the list of missing persons in the fishing villages is inordinately long.

The lives of thousands of fishermen along the coast are in a precarious state. Yet these fishermen of the sea contribute considerably to the huge demand for fish. Their fish brings in foreign exchange too.

According to the police, the trawler may have been attacked and sunk, and the 10 fishermen killed, as the result of some old enmity. Or pirates may have looted the fish from the trawler on the high seas and sunk the vessel. The hand and feet of three of the dead fishermen were tied with rope. One of them was decapitated. The door of the room from which the bodies had been recovered was found to be nailed shut.

According to the local people, the trawler had gone to sea on 7 April. Two days later they heard that it had been sunk. All the dead persons were from Maheshkhali and Chokoria.

The police is looking into the matter. We hope that all the criminals are identified and given exemplary punishment. The harsh reality is that if safety at sea cannot be ensured, it will not be possible to bring an end to such tragic incidents.

The maritime dispute with India and Myanmar has been settled and Bangladesh's legal rights to the ocean have been established. It has been a decade since then, yet we still have failed to build up our security within our maritime boundaries.

On one hand the government is talking about the potential of blue economy, and on the other, the sea has become a haven for robbers, pirates and other criminals. How can such lawlessness prevail in the high seas?

The government must take responsibility of ensuring safety of the fishermen. There can be no compromise when it comes to the security of life and resources.