Bangladesh is a riverine country which is blessed with many big and small rivers along with many other water bodies including haor, baor, beel, jheel, etc. All these water bodies once were full of different species of indigenous fishes. There was a popular saying that fish and rice make a Bengali. Thousands of people in the rural areas used to live on fishing. But over the years due to drying up of many water bodies, growing use of pesticides in farm lands and water bodies, climate change and industrialization fresh water fishes have faced extinction.

Sources said that indigenous fishes include around 265 species. Of them 140 species are the small ones. Over the years many of the small indigenous varieties have been endangered while some species of fishes have already disappeared from our water bodies. Though Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute (BFRI) is working to tackle the extinction of some homegrown fishes, if fresh water bodies are filled up and unless the fish population provides an uninterrupted atmosphere, it is tough to save them from being extinct.

It is obvious that open water fish production has decreased to the great extent but over the last two decades, fish farming has been one of the growing sectors across the country. Before that, the word ‘farming’ would mean cultivating different crops and that fish can be farmed was strange for the people. A report on Hakim Ali’s fish farm in the early nineties shown on BTV by Shykh Seraj, one of the renowned agricultural activists and media personalities, made many interested in raising fish farming. It was the beginning of the history of fish farming in our country.

These days the country sees a silent revolution in fish production.  Official data show that the production in fish farming has increased threefold over the last two decades. As per the report of 2020, it is estimated that fish production has increased to 4.4 million tons which was only 1.8 million in the year 2000. Again, amid different sources of fish production almost 60 per cent comes from farmed fishing.

Fish has been a great source of protein. Reports estimate that fishes have been one of the cheapest sources of protein for 170 million people in the country. We see abundance of fishes in the local market. Due to the availability and low price the poor people have the affordability to buy fish.

Some reports state that once those who lived on fishing from the open water bodies have come out of their cocoons and involved in fish farming or fish trading mostly and they have changed their lot within some years. Fish farming in these days has brought the fortune for the village farmer. Many educated youths are also found involved in aquaculture to be self-reliant. Again, this sector has created employment opportunity for thousands of people. 

It is true that the mind of the educated youth has changed. To many, receiving education does not mean that they should have a job after completing their education. They have come out of the traditional intention and are trying to set up their individual identity with their acquired knowledge and skills. Many have understood that to serve the country and its people the youth should come out of their traditional thinking and engage them to create more scopes for the nation.

It is evident that the educated youth are changing their lot dramatically being devoted to self-engaged farming. In this digitized age, technology has widened many more possibilities. Technology has helped to bring revolution in agriculture, medical science, communication and many more sectors.

Fish farmers using technology grow more production. The educated youths in this sector have been experimenting updated approaches in fish farming following the modern strategies followed across the globe. In this connection, research institutes, scientists are playing a crucial role to provide the maximum services for the nation.

Not only that, agriculture related programmes on TV channels contribute to disseminating field knowledge to make many enthusiastic in farming and aquaculture. Hridoye Mati O Manush hosted by Shykh Seraj has been a unique programme that helps and motivates thousands of people who are involved in different agricultural branches and the other interested to make farming.

It is apparent that Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute (BFRI) saw their many successes over their long experimentation to invent interspecific hybridization in some carp species, which helps to boost fish production in the country. In the decades, some exotic species including the silver carp, grass carp, bighead carps, common carp and silver barb have become popular. Fish farmers find more profits within the quickest time by farming these species than those of the indigenous.

On top of that, our present government is focused and due to their various measures this farming has been a boon for thousands of people.  Recently Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged the youths to engage themselves in self-employment activities for the country’s development. She said, “The youths can create self-employments by establishing fisheries farms and thus make them financially solvent instead of running after jobs”. Obviously apart from making people self-reliant this sector is contributing to increasing the country’s GDP.

But one thing we must not be indifferent to that the non-organic fertilizers like urea, Triple Super Phosphate (TSP) and Muriate of Potash (MOP) are indiscriminately used in aquaculture. In most cases, the use of these harmful chemicals begins from the very preparation of the ponds for fishing. Even some toxic elements are used to feed the fish population which poses a serious threat for the humanity.

Regrettably, our farmers are in most cases using excessive chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the field and they hardly use natural compost. These chemicals produce nitrous oxide emissions, which contribute to contaminating the environment posing a serious threat to the human being, livestock, wild and aquatic lives.

Lastly, to see this sector highly potential there is hardly any alternatives to sharing more successful stories of the beneficiaries involved in fish farming amid the people. The youth should be given loans on easy term to encourage them in fish farming. More importantly, it is time to create more scopes both for the individuals and the country in a bid to strengthen the potential of fish farming.

The writer teaches at Prime University. He is also a research scholar at the IBS. Email: [email protected]

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