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Near-extinct fishes caught, sold openly

Published : 03 Mar 2023 10:16 PM | Updated : 04 Mar 2023 01:42 PM

A Shapla pata fish, the stingrays of the Bay of Bengal, weighing 130 kg was caught in the fishhook in the Bay on Friday (March 3), fetching a whopping price of Tk. 70,000.

Before the sale, an eager crowd gathered to see the fish there. Wholesale fish trader named Noor Mohammad of Teknaf bought the fish from Paschimpara beach of Shahpari Island at Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar

Abdul Amin, a fisherman of Shahpari Island said that he and three others went to the sea with a boat to catch large fishes, including corals, on Thursday night. In the early morning on Friday, they found the huge fish stuck on their fishhook. 

Although the hunting, buying, selling and transporting of Shaplapata fish, which is identified as one of the critically endangered fishes, and some other critically endangered fishes, is legally prohibited, such hunting and selling go on in Bangladesh regularly. Such fishes are being pushed to extinction just for a few bucks. 

News of such fishing, buying and selling at higher prices is also often published in the media with a positive outlook which is not expected. The news of the Shapla Pata fish in Teknaf also came with a positive view in some media, which was not appropriate.

About the latest fishing and selling of Shapla Pata fish, Delwar Hossain, Upazila Fisheries Officer of Teknaf said that according to the ‘Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act, 2012’, fishing, buying and selling of Shapla Pata fish is completely prohibited. It is a fish of stingrays species. Such types of fish are found in shallow seas. Fishermen are made aware in various meetings and seminars not to fish Shapla Pata, but they are still fishing such fishes, he added. 

Although the official spoke against the fishing and selling of the Shaplapta, they did not take any action in this regard.  

Muhammad Anowarul Hoque, secretary general at Save Our Sea said that the stingrays of the Bay, locally known as Shapla Pata fish, are vital for biodiversity and marine ecosystem conservation, but the species are now near-endangered due to their lucrative market value. 

Talking to Bangladesh Post on Friday, he said that fishing and selling of Shapla Pata fish and such other fishes, including Baghair fish, should not be done in any way. The authorities concerned need to take action in this regard as despite a ban on catching such fishes, the fishing and open trading put the fishes in existential risks, he added. 

The Shalapata fish is also found in coastal districts and its sale going on in the various markets of Bagerhat, Khulna, Barguna and some other coastal districts. Many buy the fish at Tk. 400 to Tk. 500 per kg. The fish is sold at retail in the fish market of KB Market in Bagerhat almost every day. 

The Sundarbans authorities fear that if the hunting of the Shalpata fish continues in this way, it will become extinct.

Not only Shapla Pata fish, fishing, buying and selling of Gangetic Goonch, commonly known as Baghair fish, is also prohibited by the law. 

As an example, a 150-kg Baghair fish was on display for sale at Lalbazar fish market in Sylhet city some days ago. The fish was caught by fishermen from Kushiyara river at Fenchuganj upazila in Sylhet and a trader of Lalbazar fish market bought it from the fishermen and brought it to the market for sale. Later, he bought it at Tk 2,000 per kg after cutting the fish into pieces.

Such Baghair fish is often caught by fishermen from rivers and other reservoirs across the country and sold in the market at higher prices. It is known various small-medium-size Baghair fish are regularly sold in the Sylhet’s Lalbazar fish market and many other places across the country. 

Fishermen involved in fishing in the Jamuna River said that every year in the winter season, big-size Baghair fish are available in the river. The fishermen sell the fish at a high price to some traders of Baljuri, the main market at Motherganj upazila in Jamalpur.

Small-medium-size Baghair fish weighing from 30kg to 100kg are available in this market every day during winter season. This fish is sold at the rate of Tk. 1,000 to Tk. 1500 per kg, said a fisherman of Jamalpur. 

However, news of Baghair fish is also often published in the media positively. “As many people related to the media may not be aware of this issue, such news is published positively in some media. The news of fishing and selling of Shapltapta, Baghair and such other fishes should not come positively in the media. Rather, the media also needs to play a vital role against catching and selling of such fish,” said Muhammad Anowarul Hoque of Save Our Sea. 

Baghair, Shaplapata and some other fishes are ‘critically endangered’ species in the list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Such fishes are protected wildlife species under Schedule 2 of the ‘Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act, 2012’ of Bangladesh. 

As per the law, fishing, buying, selling, transporting or possessing of such fishes is a punishable offence and the maximum punishment for this offence is one-year imprisonment or a fine of Tk. 50,000 or both.

Muhammad Anowarul Hoque said that as the fishes are protected by the wildlife law, the Department of Forest, the Department of Fisheries, police and other departments concerned should take stern action in this regard. 

Nargis Sultana Liza, a wildlife inspector at the Department of Forest told Bangladesh Post that catching and selling of such fishes which are considered as ‘critically endangered’ species and protected by the ‘Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act’ is a punishable crime. “The fishermen should refrain from hunting such fishes. All of us should be aware in this regard,” she said. 

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