Marine fishing in Bangladesh has increased by more than 140,043 lakh tonnes in the last decade, according to the Marine Fisheries Department.
This was revealed from data on fish caught from the sea in 2008-09 and in 2017-18. A total of 514,644 tonnes was caught in 2008-09, and 654,687 tonnes in 2017-18, an increase of 27.21 percent.
Speaking to The Business Standard at the Guliakhali Ghat in Sitakunda, fisherman Krishnachandra Malo of Sitakunda said, "Around 5-6 years ago, we used to net a very small amount of hilsa. We found it difficult to make ends meet. The hilsa used to weigh between 500 grams to 1 kg."
"But now we catch more hilsa, and they weigh more than 1 kg. So I am more financially solvent than before."
He continued, "My catch has doubled from what it used to be ten years ago. But we cannot cast nets for 65 days every year. We are also barred from catching jatka (hilsa fry) for six months, and catching brood hilsa for 22 days every year.
"But, despite those restrictions, we are not facing problems. Fishermen are getting two square meals a day."
Krishnachandra Malo is not alone, nearly all fishermen in the Chattogram region have told the same story.
However, Prof Dr Shahadat Hossain of Chittagong University's Marine Science and Fisheries Department is not satisfied with the amount of fish being caught.
He said, "Bangladesh is still using traditional methods of fishing. But developed countries have made great advances by using modern technology to catch fish from the sea.
"They have the same resources that we do, but they are way ahead of us in marine fishing. So we also will have to start using modern technology too."
After the maritime boundary disputes with Myanmar and India were settled in 2012 and in 2014 respectively, about 118,813 square kilometers of sea area was added to Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh government then put priority on sea resources, and took several initiatives both to conserve and to increase the yield of marine resources. It banned fishing in the Bay of Bengal for 65 days every year.
This ban allowed the fish to breed and develop properly, and this in turn increased the fishing yield, said people involved with the sector.
Latifur Rahman, director of the Marine Fisheries Department, said, "The government has been working to form a permanent blue economy cell to give a full idea about blue economy.
"Besides, the government has identified shipping, coastal navigation, sea port, ship building and reuse, sea fish, salinity, coastal tourism, energy production from sea tides, land reclamation, sea resource survey and monitoring, human resource development and governance as priority sectors."
The Bangladesh Marine Fisheries Department says that in the 2017-18 fiscal year, Bangladesh was the fifth largest marine fishing country in the world in terms of tonnage caught.
The total fisheries sector contributes 4 percent to the country's GDP. As much as 4.334 million tonnes of fish were harvested in the 2017-18 fiscal year, of which 654,687 tonnes came from the sea, which is 16 percent of the total production. Bangladesh earned Tk4,310 crore in that fiscal year by exporting fish and fish products, said Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock.
Aminul Haque Babul Sarker, general secretary of the Sonali Mechanised Fisheries Industry Cooperative Association, said that fishing in the sea increased because the government implemented the Fisheries Policy strictly.
The organisation is an association of fishing trawler owners in the Bay of Bengal region.
He continued, "Five years ago, an average of 150 to 250 trawlers carrying fish used to arrive at Chattogram fisheries ghat every season. Now, on average 300 to 400 trawlers carrying fish come to the ghat in the same period.
"The government ban on fishing for a certain time every year has resulted in an increase in the size of the fish. Bigger fish are being caught in the nets now."
Babul added, "Marine fishing would have increased further if the robbing of fishermen venturing out to sea could be checked. Robbers still attack fishing trawlers and rob fishermen in the deep sea."
"The fishermen have to return to the ghat during natural calamities. They could take shelter if there were jetties in the deep sea. It would have increased the total amount of fish caught."
Statistics from the Marine Fisheries Department reveal that shrimp account for most of Bangladesh's marine fish exports. Bangladeshi fish are now being exported to 56 countries. Apart from shrimp, the commercially caught sea fish include sardines, hilsa, poa, rupchanda (pomfret) and datina.
According to a report of the NGO named Save Our Sea, there are 475 species of fish in the Bay of Bengal, and around 8 million tonnes of fish are caught from the Bay of Bengal every year. India and Myanmar also fish in the Bay of Bengal.
Apart from valuable fish of different species, there are various types of seaweed, 35 species of shrimp, three species of lobster, 20 species of crab and 300 species of oyster and snail in the vast waters of the Bay of Bengal.
There are four fishing fields in Bangladesh's waters. They are the Swatch of No Ground, Middle Ground, South Patches and South of South Patches.
Bangladesh has a coastline of 710 kilometres and a sea area of 9,060 square kilometres. The protected sea area is 698 square kilometres. However, a 3,188 square-kilometre area adjacent to Nijhum Dwip in Hatiya was recently declared as protected.
There are 14 coastal districts and 49 coastal upazilas in the country.
At present there are 255 registered trawlers out of which 236 are used for fishing only.
Of those, around 35 are shrimp trawlers, 52 bottom trawlers, 68 midwater transformed trawlers, 53 midwater trawlers and 28 trial trip bottom trawlers.