In Kashipur Bazar of Barisal city, three fishmongers sell 4-5 inch size jatka (baby hilsa) at Rs. 150 to 200 per kg per day. 50-60 pieces of fish are available in one kg. Talking to the sellers, it is learned that they buy wholesale fish from Mirganj of Mokam Babuganj Upazila, one of the wholesalers of fish in Barisal.
Hundreds of pounds of 2-3 inch size jatka are sold wholesale every day in different places including Port Road, Taltali Bazar, Laharhat of Barisal city like Mirganj. Retailers openly sell ferries in all the markets and alleys of the city under the name ‘Chapila’. In addition, hundreds of thousands of so-called ‘chapilas’, which are killed in rivers in the south every day, are being marketed across the country by sea and road.
The Fisheries Department Act prohibits the procurement, sale and transportation of hilsa smaller than 10 inches in size. Violation of the ban carries a maximum jail term of one year. The law will be enforced by the Department of Fisheries in collaboration with the Naval Police and the Coast Guard. However, by thumbing down all the laws, the killing, transportation and sale of 2-3 inch jatka has become an open secret trade in the south.
Barisal Fisheries Extension Officer (Hilsa) said. Bimal Chandra Das told Samakal that a lot of hilsa was produced in the river during the second breeding season in January-February. That is why this time more children are being caught with hilsa. The Department of Fisheries is conducting daily operations to stop the killing and sale of these.
According to the contemporary investigation, everything from extraction in the river to retail sale in the market is being managed by the Fisheries Administration. An influential leader of the Barisal Nagar Awami League, a fishmonger, has been confirmed by multiple sources as a force behind the Fisheries Syndicate in the entire southern region. The fisheries officials in charge get masohara through the designated agent among the fish traders in the daily market or wholesale market. If there is any irregularity in Masohara, there is a campaign to show people.
On the other hand, there is a huge syndicate behind the fishermen to kill Jatka in the river. There are crores of rupees of investment and political umbrella. Those are locally known as Ghatmahajan or Aratdar. The situation there is such that the fishermen have to be attacked if the administration goes into the river without the prior consent of the influential people.
According to the sources, the biggest market for so-called Chapila in the south is Port Road Hilsa Mokam in Barisal city, Taltali in Sadar upazila, Mirganj in Babuganj upazila, Panpatti and Badamtali launch ghats in Galachipa upazila of Patuakhali. Hilsa babies killed in Meghna adjacent to Hijla-Mehendiganj in Barisal are sold wholesale at Mokam in Barisal and Meghna-Tentulia river in Bhola at Panchatti Launch Ghat and Badamtali Launch Ghat in Galachipa. Sources said that the Meghna extends from Ilisha Point in Bhola to Chandpur via Hijla and Mehendiganj in Barisal and its tributaries are Tentulia, Kalabadar, Arial Khan river is the largest circulation area of Jatkar. A festival is going on in this river to kill the baby of 2-3 inch hilsa. Local sources have confirmed that at least three truckloads of so-called Chapilas are sent to different parts of the country every day from Galachipa. Hilsa babies are sent to the capital in passenger launches and trawlers from Hijla and Mehendiganj in Barisal and Charfason and Tajumuddin Meghna shores in Bhola.
Monir Matubbar, general secretary of the National Fishermen’s Association of Dhulkhola Union in Hijla, said the influential fishing ground owners had agreed to pay Tk 3 lakh to the administration for fishing in Meghna within two months of the ban. Jatka business is going on in more than 50 fishing grounds on the banks of Meghna in the two upazilas.
Hijla Upazila Fisheries Officer MM Parvez told Samakal when asked about the wholesale buying and selling of Jatkar at the fishing grounds of the influential people, “We are not getting any cooperation from them. The Coast Guard does not land at night, but only 2-1 times a day, but within certain restrictions, on the pretext of permission from higher authorities. If you want force from the police, you can’t give it immediately. The fisheries official said, “We do not have our own manpower and vessels.” An executive magistrate was sought from the district administration for two months, but was not granted. Still trying my best.
Sadar Upazila Fisheries Officer Sanjeev Sanyamat is in charge of supervising the hats and bazaars of Nagar and Sadar Upazilas. Asked how 2-3-inch hilsa babies are being sold openly in the city’s hat bazaar, he claimed that retailers are secretly selling them. Recently, they raided Taltoli Bazaar and seized 35 manas and a large quantity of Jatka in Laharhat.
Kabir Master, the lessee of Badnatali Mokam in Galachipar, Patuakhali, said that small hilsa or jatka is not allowed to be sold in that Mokam. However, he also heard that some unscrupulous fishermen who came from Bhola and Baufal to sell glass fish secretly sell small hilsa at night.