At least 126 kilograms of Hilsa fish were seized by the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel late at night on Wednesday, while the consignment was being smuggled from Bangladesh into India.
"This is the single-largest consignment of Hilsa seized in the last few years and the first this year. The truck driver, the vehicle, and along with the consignment, were handed over to West Bengal Police," said SS Guleria, deputy inspector-general (DIG), BSF, (South Bengal Frontier).
The seizure comes at a time, when millions of Bengalis are facing an acute shortage of their favourite fish. Hilsa is often tagged as the Queen of Fish and the Bangladeshi variant is considered to be tastier than their Indian counterparts.
In 2012, though Bangladesh had imposed a ban on the export of Hilsa to India, the prohibition was lifted last year.
"It was during a routine vehicle check at Petrapole late at night on Wednesday that the consignment was seized. The consignment was hidden in nine bags inside the driver's cabin of the truck. The driver didn't have any Customs clearance," said a BSF official.
Many had thought that with cleaner rivers because of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19)-induced lockdown restrictions, there would be a bumper Hilsa catch this year.
Experts had said that since pollution in the Ganges and its tributaries was less this year because of the lockdown, chances were high that schools of Hilsa would migrate upstream to breed.
"Over two months have passed since the fishermen ventured into the Bay of Bengal after the lockdown, but a good catch is still elusive. However, we have received reports that Bangladeshi-fishermen are reaping a bumper catch this year," said Pradip Chatterjee, convener, National Platform for Small Scale Fish Workers.