Published :Tuesday, 10 November, 2015, Time : 12:00 AM View Count : 42
Bangladesh is now the fourth major fish producing country in the world as it has raised production from 7.5 lakh tonnes to more than 35 lakh tonnes in the last twenty years. Steady growth in inland fish production from aquaculture helped Bangladesh achieve the feat, a FAO report reveals. However, the country Bangladesh has recently lost many species of local fish, better known as 'sweet water' fishes, said officials at the Department of Fisheries and Livestock. Ministry data show freshwater fish output has risen to over 35 lakh tonnes worth Tk 60,000 crore in 2014-15 fiscal year from around 27.01 tonnes in 2008-09. Fisheries and Livestock Minister Mohammed Sayedul Haque said Bangladesh has acquired 4th position in the world in producing freshwater fishes. He also said the growth rate in this sector is 5.38 per cent every year. The government would issue 2,000,000 identity cards this year after verifying real fishermen, Haque said, adding that an amount of Tk 1.20 crore has been distributed among the families of 247 fishermen, who were killed in natural disasters during fishing in the sea. With fish farming having increased, over the past 10 years fish consumption has almost doubled and its exports gone up by 135 per cent. In FY 2013-14, Bangladesh's export earnings from frozen fish went up to Tk 4100.49 crore, marking a 17.35 per cent rise. In the eighties, new varieties of pangash, rui, katal and telapia fish produced by the Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute won instant popularity among the consumers. In recent years there has been an increase in shing, magur and shol farming. In 1990, 193 thousand tonnes of farmed fish was produced. In 2000 this increased to 657 thousand tonnes. And in 2014 this has reached 10 lakh tonnes. The annual per capita consumption of fish and fish products in Bangladesh is 11.9 kg which is around 11.1 per cent of total protein consumption. The total annual consumption is the highest in Chittagong area (17.2 kg per person), while the lowest in Rangpur area (7.5 kg per person). The species most commonly consumed are freshwater fish, including tilapia, catfish and carp, while hilsa is the most consumed marine species. A report of Department of Fisheries pointed out that several government initiatives, including conservation of Jatka, setting up inland sanctuary, releasing fish fries in inland water bodies, setting up swamp nurseries and managing jalmahals, contributed to booming fish production. Former Fisheries Secretary Z Karim said, "Bangladesh is the best place in the world for sweet water fish cultivation." The 2.5 lakh hectares of open water bodies and thousands of ponds in villages have created a potential but is not utilised fully, he said, suggesting if the government pays more attention to fish cultivation and assists the farmers, Bangladesh could emerge as No. 1 country in fish production. According to the Food and Agriculture organisation, Bangladesh has been among the top five fish cultivating countries for many years. In 2006 it jumped to second position, overtaking India. From 2004 to 2014, Bangladesh's fish production increased by 53 per cent. Bangladesh Statistics Bureau's latest economic census shows in FY 2014-15, the country produced approximately 30.46 lakh tonnes of fish, of which about 2 lakh tonnes were farmed. With the protection of hilsa fries and other initiatives, production of the country's most popular fish hilsa has gone up from 52,000 tonnes to 350,000 tonnes. Pointing to a 2-36 per cent rise in the prices of all items produced in the country, the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh said the prices of rui, pangash and telapia fishes have not gone up. In fact, the prices of koi and magur have actually gone down somewhat. Increased production has led to the price-drop. Akhter Ahmed, country head of the US-based International Food Policy Research Institute, said all credit goes to the farmers. "They take market demand into consideration and farm fish accordingly," he added. Meanwhile, sector insiders say Bangladesh is losing out on one of its main objects of pride: fish. Some 20 species of indigenous fish have become extinct over the last 10 years. A hundred more are endangered. If the trend continues, nearly 70 per cent of the local fish varieties may suffer the same fate in the next few years. Around 100 out of 143 local fish species are in imminent danger of extinction. The species that have already become extinct include gutum, korika, bhol, debari, one kind of puti, ghora mukhya, nandil, kursa, bhorkhol, ghorpoiya, one variety of tengra and kajuli, torrent catfish, kani tengra, chhoto koi and tila shol. The fishes that face extinction within a couple of years include balichata, betangi, rani, chela, darkina, pathorchata, joiya, ghora machh, baitka and mohashol.