Hilsa ban not lifted soon

The government has no immediate plans to lift the ban imposed in 2012 on the export of hilsa to ensure a smooth supply of the silver delicacy in local markets.

“How much we get from export of hilsa fish? We do not have any immediate plan to resume hilsa export,” state-run BSS news agency quoted Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed as saying.

hilsaHe said the ban on the fish, declared the National Fish of Bangladesh upon the country gaining independence in 1971, was needed to ensure supply to local markets and check its prices.

Ahmed’s comments came despite continued lobbying by Indian businesses for resuming the export in view of its high demand from India particularly in West Bengal.

Bangladesh had launched a campaign to protect its most precious but dwindling aqua resource several years ago and slapped a ban on export of hilsa for an indefinite period in July 2012, straining its ties with India and oil-rich Middle Eastern countries.

Officials said the campaign yielded results as fisheries department data showed an increase in its catch in the last fiscal at 391,000 tonnes.

From 1983 to 1999, the average catch of hilsa was 211,000 tonnes per year, according to official data.

But since early 1980s its availability continued to decline in inland rivers which experts said was caused by morphological changes, pollution and human intervention.

Hilsa, known as ‘ilish’ in Bengali parlance, is mainly a sea species but prefers to lay its eggs in rivers due to absence of salinity and lesser current.

The roaming ground of hilsa ranges from Persian Gulf to Gulf of China via Bay of Bengal but 60 per cent of it are caught in major Bangladeshi rivers.