Many fishermen are netting hilsa despite the ongoing ban.
They are catching the fish, particularly during the night, in the Meghna, Kirtankhola, Bishkhali, Kalabadar and Arial Kha rivers in Barisal division, the Padma in Munshiganj and the Meghna in Narayanganj.
On October 1, the Department of Fisheries enforced the 22-day ban on netting, selling and transporting hilsa to protect the mother fish till spawning.
During the period, no fisherman is allowed to throw nets in the waters where there is movement of hilsa, say fisheries officials.
So far, at least 39 fishermen have been jailed for different terms for netting hilsa amid the ban in Barisal, Patuakhali and Munshiganj.
The punishment was handed down during drives by joint teams of officials from the district administrations, fisheries department, police and coast guard.
Meanwhile, fishermen were yet to get the promised food support in compensation from the government for complying with the ban. Each of the 5.5 lakh fishermen is supposed to get 20kg rice in compensation.
“No rice is being distributed among the fishermen. We haven’t got any allocation of rice from the disaster management and relief ministry yet,” said Masud Ara Momi, assistant director of the Department of Fisheries working in the hilsa project.
She also said strict monitoring was in place to check hilsa netting across the country.
In Patuakhali and Barguna, some fishermen, however, told The Daily Star they were catching the fish in rivers and storing them.
Visiting Gora Padma area in Barguna’s Patharghata upazila just before Monday evening, our correspondent saw a group of fishermen on a trawler netting fish at the mouth of the Bishkhali river.
They caught a good quantity of hilsa there.
Talking to the correspondent, one of the fishermen said they were catching the fish only to run their families.
In Barisal region, around three lakh fishermen were waiting for the food support from the government, according to the fisheries department.
“Fishermen had received 20kg of rice during last year’s ban. However, this year it hasn’t happened yet. We have already sent our proposal to the department and are waiting for their reply,” said Bazlur Rashid, deputy director of the fisheries department in Barisal.
Around 145,000 out of some 3 lakh fishermen in Barisal division received the rice last year.
Usually, the fishermen enlisted by the upazila and union parishad get the rice, but the process hasn’t started this year, said Azizul Haque, senior assistant director of Department of Fisheries.
So, tens of thousands of fishermen in the coastal districts were going through a tough time amid the ban.
“How can we survive if we can’t fish and also don’t get any food support from the government?“ asked Anowar Hossain, a fisherman of Chandramobhon village in Barisal Sadar.
Meanwhile, the drives against the hilsa catching has so far seized a total of 5.2 lakh metres of current net in the Kalabadar, Arial Kha, Meghna, Kirtonkhola and Bishkhali rivers till yesterday.
In Barisal region, the Department of Fisheries with the help of the district administration and law enforcers operated 175 mobile courts and jailed 15 fishermen for violating the ban.
In Munshiganj, 15 fishermen were fined and 5,000 metres of current net was destroyed by the authorities following a drive in the Padma river near Lauhajang upazila.
In Narayanganj, 75,000 metres of gill net was seized and destroyed.
(Out Barisal, Patuakhali, Narayanganj and Munshiganj correspondents contributed to the report.)