Thousands of fish egg collectors at Halda river, the country's lone natural carp fish breeding sanctuary, hoped for a better haul this year due to a drop in pollution following the countrywide shutdown to curb coronavirus spread.
However, the collectors are now concerned whether they would be able to sell those fish eggs amid the virus pandemic.
The brood fishes release eggs during the last week of April or on the beginning of May every year if there are congenial temperature, heavy rain, tide and increased water flow from the upstream in the river – all required for laying eggs.
This year, the amount of rain was little from April 5-11 — the onset of egg collecting season (locally often called as "joe"), and Halda did not see any spawning. The second "joe" (second phase of favourable weather) has started from April 18 and will continue until April 24.
The breeders hope fishes may release eggs at this time. They said this year's yield could reach nearly 400 kilograms, worth around Tk2 crore.
The egg collectors will have to cost a total of Tk30 lakh to collect those eggs. The total expenditure will go in vain if they fail to sell those in time. Subsequently, carp fish yield in different parts of the country will be hampered too.
Mohammad Elias, a seasoned egg collector from Chattogram's Hathazari upazila, said that they were taking preparation with five boats to collect the eggs.
"We are expecting a big haul this year as pollution and human activity have dropped significantly," he said.
Like his five vessels, other egg collectors with around 300 boats are ready for the haul.
Elias urged the government to take special measures so that they can sell those amid the virus shutdown.
The mother fishes released eggs on different bends of Halda, including Aburkhil, Maishkaran, Kagtia, Binajuri, West Gohira, South Gohira, Sipahighat Azimerghat and Ankurighona areas of Rawjan Upazila, and Madarsha, Amtua, Masuaghona, Garduara and Napiterghat areas of Hathazari Upazila.
After collecting the eggs, hatchery people process those to turn into fries. Demand for Halda fries are comparatively high in the country as those grow faster.
Dr Manzurul Kibria, a researcher on Halda and professor of zoology department at Chittagong University, told The Business Standard that Halda egg collection and fry-sales might experience losses if the crisis lingered.
"Though there is not a ban on fish-fry sales or transportation, there will be a situation if the fry-buyers could not come from different areas of the country," he said.
Hathazari Upazila Nirbahi Officer Ruhul Amin said they would keep Halda fish egg-collections, fry sales and transportations out of lockdown purview.
"We will inform the buyers when the fish-fries reach for the purchase," he said, adding the condition of the river is now the best in last 20 years.
The UNO assured all-out help to the egg-collectors and incoming buyers from different districts.
According to river researchers, the egg yield and fry production from Halda were 2,800 kg and 47 kg respectively in 2015.
Egg collection and fry production both dropped in 2016 — 735 kg and 12 kg respectively in that year. In 2019, egg collection reached at 6,987 kg while the fry production was 192 kg.