Jatka fishermen are now community fish guards protecting illish population in 15 upazilas

A total of 330 selected fishermen from 15 upazilas of 6 coastal districts are working to save Jatka Ilish

Fishermen who previously caught ilish fry, called Jatka in Bangla, have renounced their previous ways and are trying to motivate others to follow suit.

A total of 330 selected fishermen from 15 upazilas of 6 coastal districts, including Bhola, Barishal, Patuakhali, Chandpur, Laxmipur and Shariatpur, are working to save Jatka Ilish.

Rechristened as community fish guards in 2016, their force is increasing in number each year.

They were formed under the USAID-funded ECOFISH Project, jointly implemented by the Department of Fisheries and WorldFish.

It is contributing significantly to protect the Jatka ilish during the sanctuary ban period, between March to April, and brood Ilish during the peak spawning season. 

An official of WorldFish told Dhaka Tribune that at first, there were only 20 community fish guards, but now it has reached 330.

They get training on co-management activities of Jatka and brood Ilish (Ilish) safeguarding, Ilish conservation policy and fisheries law, importance of Ilish sanctuary, implementation of their duties and responsibilities, role of fisheries department and law enforcement agencies, and coordination & communication, he also said. 

They have also been provided with identity cards, trousers, towel, umbrella, apron, shoes, and flashlight from the project for effective delivery of their duties, said the official.

“I was not aware about Jatka conservation earlier, but I have received training about various aspects of fish and biodiversity conservation through CFGs. Now I am working actively to conserve Ilish and raise awareness to save Jatka and its sanctuaries,” said Roman Bepari, a fisherman from the community fish guard program of Kedarpur village, Shriyatpur district.

According to the Department of Fisheries, like the previous years, this year, the government is observing a ban on fishing for all kinds of fish, including Ilish, in five Ilish sanctuaries in six districts of the country for two months (March 1 to April 30) to protect Jatka. 

Under this ban, all kinds of fishing, including Ilish have been stopped in the five sanctuaries located in the Meghna-Kalabador-Gajaria rivers in Hizla-Mehendigonj, Barishal, the Meghna river in Chandpur, Laxmipur, Bhola, the Tentulia River in Bhola, and the Padma river in Shariatpur. 

The ban period in the Andharmanik river, Patuakhali is observed during November-January.

The director general of the department recently sent a letter requesting the concerned fisheries officials to add community fish guards as assistants of the fisheries department to protect Ilish and Jatka during the ban periods. 

Honorarium will be provided to these fishermen working for the protection of Ilish from the ‘Ilish Conservation and Development Fund’ created from the USAID ECOFISH project jointly implemented by the Department of Fisheries and WorldFish.

“The government banned all types of fishing, including Ilish, for a total of 22 days from October 14 to November 4, last year during the main breeding season. During that time, community fish guards assisted the Department of Fisheries and law enforcement agencies,” said Masud Ara Momi, deputy chief (Ilish) of Department of Fisheries Bangladesh.

She added that this community participation initiative of the government will play a pivotal role in protecting the sanctuary of Ilish and developing fishery resources. 

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