India sees dwindling hilsha catch after Farraka

Prothom Alo English | Update:

HilshaConcerned at the decline in availability of hilsha, the queen of fishes in Banladesh and India's West Bengal, scientists from Jadavpur University in Kolkata are developing a model to predict how much hilsa would reach the Bengali platter every year, reports The Hindustan Times.

It said the obsession with Hilsha is such that chief minister Mamata Banerjee was flooded with requests to persuade Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina to lift the ban on hilsa exports to India that Dhaka imposed in July 2012.

Work on the model is progressing and the JU team hopes to come up with the predictive model sometime later this year, according to the report.

“The model will not only tell us how much Hilsa would be available in the rivers and estuaries, but also the sustainable fishing limit,” Sugata Hazra, director of School of Oceanographic Studies at JU, who leads the project, was quoted to have said.

"The quantity could vary from year to year depending on various factors such as availability of food (plankton), turbidity, fresh water flow, wind direction, lunar phase and sea surface temperature among others."

In the West Benghal, the declining availability of hilsa is of great concern.

According to the government estimates the hilsa catch has come down from 33,102 tonnes in 2000-01 to 9,269 tonnes in 2014-15, a decline of close to 72 per cent.

Also, the report said, the size of the fishes has been dwindling over the years.

Experts have reportedly pointed out various reasons behind this ranging from siltation of rivers, unbridled fishing of juvenile hilsa, pollution, loss of habitat among others.

Incidentally, the newspaper said, before the Farakka barrage was built on the Ganges, hilsa was found in Hardwar too.

“We're trying to come up with a single model which would allow us to predict month-wise and if possible daily availability of hilsa population in the fishing zone,” the researcher was quoted to have said.

The JU-model would help scientists to send similar advisories about availability and congregation of fish shoals in the sea to the state government.

“If can go for sustainable fishing with bans and restrictions during some months during the year and in the spawning areas, the hilsa population would recover within the next few years,” The Hindustan Times quoted Hazra as saying.

It mentioned that the Bangladesh government has already put in place stringent legislation to conserve the Hilsa population.

West Bengal is also planning to bring in similar legislation which would help authorities to arrest anyone buying or selling baby hilsa, the report added.

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