Launches on the Barishal-Dhaka waterway were closed for 66 consecutive days to prevent coronavirus infection. Most riverside industries were closed as well in that period, and the closures reduced river pollution in Barishal division.
Furthermore, fishermen were unable to go fishing in the rivers because of the lockdown in different districts to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection.
Thus, schools of Hilsa moved freely in the river and had uninterrupted growth. Considering these aspects, fishermen and researchers of the Bangladesh Fisheries Department, and relevant experts assume that it resulted in positive growth in Hilsa production.
They say that this time the production of Hilsa will break all past records.
They think that because of the lockdown, fishermen were unable to catch fish. And since the mills and factories were closed, it had a positive impact on the environment. River pollution has decreased and the Hilsa production is also showing the positive effects.
Dr Bimal Chandra Das, officer of Barishal Fisheries Department said that production of Hilsa has increased in the last few years. "Now, fishermen get large sized Hilsa. But in past, Hilsa weighing more than a kilogram was rarely seen in the market. And the prices were high too."
Large quantities of large Hilsa have been sold in the market this winter. The average weight of Hilsa has increased by 350 grams in the last three years. Alongside the size and weight, total production has exceeded the target, he added.
Hilsa production increased gradually because of the implementation of a ban on fishing in the sea at certain times, and the prohibition on catching jatka (small Hilsa) and mother Hilsa's in the sanctuaries at certain periods.
"Four of the Hilsa sanctuaries of the country are in Barishal. Hilsa and other species of fish roam freely in the river. The level of water pollution has reduced as well. So, I assume the breeding and reproduction of Hilsa will increase," Bimal said.
Bimal also believes that many local fish species that were lost may return to the river.
Md Jashim, a fisherman from Daulatkhan upazila in Bhola said, "I have been fishing Hilsa in the river for 20 years. Due to the lockdown, I could not fish here for a long time. I think we will get a huge amount of Hilsa this season."
Ajit Kumar Das Manu, president of the Barishal Port Road Stockist Association, said that there were relatively few Hilsa in the rivers. A few Hilsa were netted by the fishermen and thus, there is a shortage of this fish in the market.
"Last year, we had a lot of Hilsa in the market, but this time the scenario is different. Some Hilsas are available, but those are sold at a high price. So, the fishermen are frustrated," said Ajit Kumar.
However, everyone is hopeful. The crisis will end once the fishing ban in the sea is lifted. Then Hilsa will come in plenty to the storehouse. The price will drop and people can buy the fish at a lower price, he added.
Azizul Haque, deputy director of the Fisheries Department of Barishal division, said the government initiatives to increase Hilsa production have proven to be very effective.
"Barishal division has the largest contribution to the production of Hilsa in the country. Over the past years, more than 66 percent of the country's total Hilsa has been extracted from this division," he said.
In the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to the Department of Fisheries, the amount of Hilsa extracted in the country increased by 4.19 percent as compared to that in the previous year.
In accordance, in Barishal it also increased by about 8,000 tonnes.
In the 2018-19 fiscal year, a total of 517,188 tonnes of Hilsa was extracted in the country. Of this, 332,025 tonnes were from Barishal division.
Bhola and Barguna supply the most Hilsa after Barishal division. In the last financial year, 161,832 tonnes of Hilsa was extracted in Bhola, and 70,237 tonnes in Barguna.
Besides, 48,287 tonnes were extracted in Patuakhali, 41,459 tonnes in Barishal, in Pirojpur it was 5,715 tonnes and 1,495 tonnes in Jhalokati. And it will increase further in the current fiscal year.
Azizul Haque said that Hilsa production this year may surpass all records.
"The country is likely to procure more than one lakh tonnes of Hilsa this time. Of this, I hope that more than 60 to 70 thousand tonnes will be extracted in Barishal division.