About 70 percent fishermen of the coastal belt have lost their jobs because of the ongoing 65-days ban on fishing in the Bay of Bengal, a new study says.
Catching all types of saltwater fish has been prohibited during May 20-July 23 period.
Besides, half of the fishermen can’t afford three square meals due to lack of income and failing to include their names in the list of government aid receivers.
A recent study by non-governmental organisation COAST Trust revealed this information on Tuesday, according to a press release.
COAST has prepared the report based on information from 264 fisher families in the coastal districts of Cox’s Bazar, Laksmipur, Bhola, Patuakhali, Khulna, and Bagerhat.
According to it, during the ban period 60.8 percent of the families have no income at all. As a result, where 95.8 families used to have three meals a day, 51 percent of the families can eat three meals during the ban, the press release says.
The government is providing 43kg of rice to help the families of the fishermen during the ban. But even though 65.8 percent of the fishing families got rice, 34.2 percent of the families have not yet received this government assistance.
Half of those who got this rice received it about a month after the ban began. Some 40 percent of the fishers complained that despite fulfilling all the conditions, their names did not appear in the government list for support, so they got nothing.
Some 67.5 percent of those receiving rice as government assistance said that the rice was not enough to support their families as there was no cash assistance to meet other household expenses and 96.1 percent of the fishermen did not receive any assistance under any other social safety net programs.
Thus, 79.9 percent of the fishermen have borrowed on interest to meet the expenses of the family, 42.1 percent have sold their labor in advance, and 45.7 percent have borrowed from the moneylenders at high interest.
The study also found that violence against women in fishers’ families increased during the ban. About 51.8 percent of households have experienced domestic violence.
The study also found that 95.4 percent of the fishers have no alternative source of income except fishing at sea.
The study recommended ensuring an alternative income for fishermen during the ban period. Recognizing the effectiveness of the ban on fishing to increase the country’s fisheries resources, the study makes several specific recommendations to address the various crises faced by fishing families during the ban. Some notable recommendations are cash assistance instead of rice, easy access to loans or financial assistance, a compilation of an accurate list of fishermen, awareness and incentive activities to prevent child marriage and increase the rate of education, setting a “fishing ban period” in coordination with India and Myanmar.
Iqbal Uddin, a researcher at the COAST Trust, said the study was conducted to analyse the impact of the ban on fishermen’s socio-economic life, to analyse the risk and gender fairness of women fishermen and to make recommendations to meet the needs of fishermen.
Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, Executive Director of COAST Trust, said the fisheries sector contributes 3.57 percent to the annual GDP. Hilsa alone as a single fish meets 12 percent of the country’s fish demand. Fish production has increased by 58.35 percent in the last 10 years. Fishermen are always deprived even though they meet the fish demand of the people of the country.
Most of them lead inhumane lives during the fishing ban. Rice assistance alone is not enough during the ban because cash assistance is needed for other household expenses, he added.