The fishermen in Bhola are extremely frustrated with poor netting of hilsa in the Meghna and Tetulia rivers, even after fishing all day.
According to several fishermen at the district ghats, families are going through a tough time as the catch is not enough even enough to recover the cost of fishing boat trips. Since their catch has not met expectations, they are concerned about the prospects of repaying loans from local lenders and NGOs.
Between 14 October to 4 November, the government had imposed a 22-day netting ban on all kinds of fish in the 190 km area of Meghna and Tetulia rivers in Bhola, in order to increase hilsa production and protect mother hilsa.
The fishermen could not work for 22 days, during the ban.
Four days after ending the 22-day fishing ban, fishermen have yet to see the desired hilsa catch of hilsa or they have had to return to the ghat empty handed.
During a visit to the spot, The Business Standard observed no crowds by the ghats along the riverbank, meaning no buyers. On the one hand, ghat traders are sitting idle, while fishermen are wiling away the hours in spending Ludo, cards or in sewing their nets.
After waiting for several hours, some fishermen returned to the ghat with fish from the rivers.
When Asked, fisherman Shah Alam said, "I went to the river in the morning and now it is half past three in the afternoon. After eight hours, I netted only three fish. I couldn't even meet the fuel costs of the trip. "
Another fisherman, Malek Munshi, said he had gone the river every day since 5 November with high hopes of netting a good catch, but he is now frustrated.
Last year and the year before that, fishermen had caught huge hilsa in their nets. But at the end of the ban this year, the river had yielded a poor hilsa catch.
So, it is no surprise that the fishermen and traders look miserable.
Mohiuddin Mia, a trader at Ilisha Biswaroad Fish Ghat, opined that the hilsa quantity hilsa may have been impacted by the poor navigability of the river.
He added that fishermen have not incurred significant losses because if the fishermen do not get a good hilsa catch in the river, they venture out to the sea instead.
Another trader Lokman Faraji said, "Why will the hilsa come to the river? Due to the navigability crisis, hilsa quantity in the river has dropped. "
However, the fishermen of Monpura, Dhal Char, and Char Kukri-Mukri in the south of Bhola have been getting a better hilsa catch than local fishermen, because the areas just mentioned are located at the mouth of the sea, where there is a lot of water.
Even four days after the resumption of fishing, the Hilsa fish market in Bhola has been facing a shortage of Hilsa fish, leading to an increase in prices.
Large hilsa above 1 kg sells at Tk40,000 to 45,000 per mound. Medium-sized hilsa, weighing between 600-700 gram sells at Tk30,000-35,000 per mound, while Jatka (fry) or slightly larger hilsa sells for Tk15,000 to 25,000. During this same period in the last few years, hilsas have sold at almost half these prices, according to fish traders.
However, Bhola Sadar Upazila Senior Fisheries Officer, Md Asaduzzaman urged fishermen to avoid getting disappointed with this year's fish shortage.
Asaduzzaman opined that availability of hilsa in the river has been adversely impacted by climate change, and the hilsa catch would improve by the end of December or early January.