Ilius fishes near the Lalgola-Urakanda area of the Padma River in Rajbari. With his modest investment of a small boat, basic nets and other fishing instruments and hard work, he manages a modest livelihood.
On the day we met, however, he said that he was struggling to catch fish because some fishermen released poison on the river bank near his fishing area.
"They applied the poison three nights back to catch shrimp, and there has been no fish in the area ever since," Ilius said. "Whenever this happens, which is very common when the water is clear (during winter-spring time mostly), small fishermen like us have trouble fishing."
He said that such poison fishing in the river is becoming increasingly common in his area, and he heard that this is rampant almost everywhere in the Padma bank in Rajbari and the neighbouring districts.
When asked if he could introduce us to the fishermen who release poison in Padma, Ilius said, "I know some of them in my area but if I tell you their names, they will cause trouble for me."
Poison fishing has been of concern in the Sundarbans area and ponds in general. But the latest finding of its spread in Padma River is both unprecedented and alarming.
According to the fishermen and the residents who were interviewed over the weeks, the poison fishers in the vast bank of Padma are speculated to be "many."
But it is hard to catch them in action because this happens only at night, and it is done rather quickly. The whole process takes approximately 1-1.5 hours with the posion fishers leaving the spot.
Only on condition of anonymity and assurance that their names and identities will not be disclosed, some poison fishers agreed to interviews. In the following text, pseudonyms were used for all the interviewees.
"I don't have an education. Those who can read said the poison is called Major and Jagoran," Alamgir, a poison fisherman in Rajbari district, told The Business Standard.
They mentioned several other types of poisons, which are mainly used as pesticides or insecticides in agricultural lands. Some other names they mentioned include Karate, and Shobicron, which are used as insecticides in different crop and fruit fields.
Insecticides are pesticides that are formulated to kill, harm, repel or mitigate different species of insects. However, according to Beyond Pesticides, an organisation based in Washington DC that protects public health and the environment from toxic pesticides, fish can be directly or indirectly impacted by pesticides.
"Some long-term exposures cause abnormalities or mutations in developing fish larvae, while acute exposure can cause immediate fish die-offs. The liver, kidney, brain and gills of exposed fish are extremely vulnerable to chemical exposure," Beyond Pesticides mentions on their website.
Alamagir said when they apply it in the river at night, they ensure there is no one around.
"In winter, there are very few fishermen at night. That is when we work. Soon after the poison is applied, the shrimp wash ashore. We collect them and move away from the river bank quickly," Alamgir said.
Ranju is a fisherman but he also collects fish from others and sells them in larger bazaars. He said, "I have seen them at work, and sometimes buy these shrimp from them [poison fishers]."
"They apply the poison at the bends or turning. The poison remains within the 18 to 20 Katha area. Many types of fish stay in this area. The larger fish go away into the deep but smaller fish like shrimp, crab and spiny eels wash ashore," he explained.
Depending on luck, Ranju said, the poison fisherman can catch between 5kg to over 30kg of fish in an hour.
"The regular fishers don't poison fish. They fish with regular nets, tuibya and other instruments. It requires cash investment," Ranju said. "The poison anglers don't spend the money on investment in boats, nets and other instruments. They buy Tk300 poison and make money easily."
Mosiur Rahman, district fisheries officer of Rajbari said that he knows poison fishing is out there. "We heard that such a group was arrested in Faridpur, but we don't know about anything like that in Rajbari yet," he said.
"It is not in our knowledge that this method is also applied in Padma River. Now that you told me, I will look into it," he said.
Mofizur Rahman Chowdhury, an ichthyologist at the forest department, said that poison fishing had been rampant in the Sundarbans area when fishermen went there with permits and instead fished by releasing different pesticides illegally.
"These are under control now as we conduct various drives from the Forest Department. But some greedy people still do it," he said.
When asked about this method's spread on Padma banks, he was surprised that it made it to the river and stressed that this has to stop.
"This [poison fishing] damages the environment, fish and human habitats," Mofizur said. "In areas where the poison is applied, the water quality, zooplankton and phytoplankton are damaged as long as the poison remains. Eating these fish can create kidney, liver and other problems in humans."