It has long been known that many people depend on the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, for their livelihood, as the forest naturally provides resources including fish, crabs, honey and timber. In order to maintain a balance between resource extraction and forest health, the Bangladesh Forest Department has issued fee-based permits to harvest resources from specific areas in the Sundarbans, except for the period of June, July and August, which is the annual wildlife breeding season. .
However, some fishermen use the poison to catch fish all year round, even during the ban period, harming the forest environment and the health of those who eat fish caught with the poison.
Considering this damage to the world’s largest mangrove forest and human health, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh issued a ruling in response to a writ petition to stop this heinous practice in September 2021.
However, the practice still continues, as forest department officials have failed to stop it.
Abdul Aleem, a resident of the southwestern outskirts of the Sundarbans in Khulna district, explained the process of catching the poisonous fish, saying, “They use motor-driven boats to enter the Sundarbans. They use poison. It is a kind of drink. If anyone spills a drop in the water body, within a few minutes Fish, crabs, and other aquatic species crawl ashore to save their lives.
He added that in this way, fishermen can catch a good amount of fish in the shortest possible time, adding that those involved in using poison in fishing usually use motorized boats so that they can move quickly to escape, without being caught by anyone.
The Sundarbans spread across the Bay of Bengal, into both Bangladesh and India. According to the Bangladesh Forest Department, the 6,017 square kilometers (2,323 sq mi) Sundarbans region of Bangladesh harbors about 210 species of white fish, 24 species of shrimp, 14 species of crabs, 43 species of molluscs, and one species of crayfish. the sea.
“(Poison hunting) is of grave concern to the biodiversity of the forest. It is negatively destroying the lives of all kinds of species in the forest. The government had earlier taken initiatives to stop this practice under the Forest Act, but no one followed the rules. There are powerful gangs operating in that The regions are powerful, and no one can stop them. “This is very unfortunate,” said Shafiqul Islam, Department of Marine Sciences and Fisheries, University of Chittagong.
Mihir Kumar, forest officer of Khulna division of the Bangladesh Forest Department, does not deny this. “We do not deny that this is not happening, but our efforts must also matter,” he said. “In March this year, we arrested three people while catching fish with poison. We have filed a case under the Forest Act. Our efforts to stop this heinous practice are continuing.”
Abdul Aleem said that in most cases, fish caught with poison are dried in remote areas within the forest before being transported to the local market as dried fish, as local fish traders usually refuse to buy them from fishermen.
He added that other live fish are being sent to different urban areas where no one knows the source of the fish.
Fish caught using poison are also sold in markets, posing serious health concerns. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, eating poisoned fish can create various abnormalities in human health, including gastrointestinal, nervous, and cardiovascular, with initial symptoms including nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, and headache.
“This is very dangerous to health,” Shafiq said. If you don’t know that the fish was caught with poison and you eat that fish, it will slowly affect your organs. In the long run, many diseases will only occur by eating this toxic food; That is, shrimp, crab and other fish.
Factors causing illegal fishing
According to a recent study, more than 1.7 million people are from eight sub-districts comprising 76 villages directly adjacent to the Sundarbans border. As people grow closer to the forest, their dependence on its natural resources increases dramatically, and about 78% of households located within 2 kilometers (1.2 mi) of the forest border depend on the Sundarbans for their livelihood.
Since agriculture is not profitable in this region due to increased soil salinity, climate variability and frequent changes in river flow, the main livelihood of the local people comes from harvesting resources from the Sundarbans.
The subaltern community usually changes its dependence on the forest with the seasons because all resources collected from the Sundarbans are seasonal. However, fishing has emerged as one of the main sources of livelihood for local people living in the forests, and unemployment has forced them to violate rules and regulations, according to the study.
This article was first published on Mongabay.