Bangladesh: Fish egg haul in Halda plummets

DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN) - Damage to riverbed gorges, dredging and illegal capturing of broodfish blamed.

The filling up of breeding grounds, using of dredgers and illegal capturing of broodfish have resulted in poor spawning of fish, bringing dismay to egg collectors waiting for hauls on the bank of Halda, which is possibly the lone natural breeding ground for carps in South Asia.

At least 500 egg collectors on around 250 boats were netting eggs from the Halda at various points of Hathazari and Raozan upazila, including Napitter Ghona, Azimer Ghat, Amtuya, Ramdas Munsir Haat and Bariyar Ghona.

Eight thousand kilograms of sample eggs were collected this year, while the amount of egg collected last year was 22,680 kg.

The Halda has 21 breeding grounds (gorges) along a 10-kilometre stretch from Onkorighuna to Ramdas Munshir Haat. Seven out of 21 gorges were partially filled up a few months ago as the Water Development Board (WDB) was building a dam along the river using bags of sand.

Mominul Haque, district fisheries officer of Chattogram, told The Daily Star that the piling up of sand bags in the river reduced the depth and width of the gorges where broodfish take shelter during spawning.

“We assume at least 10 to 15 feet of the gorges have been reduced, slowing down whirlpool in the current,” he said.

Whirlpool is important as the eggs laid by broodfish revolves around the whirl, around which the egg collectors lay their nets to make their hauls, he explained.

He added that as the whirlpool speed reduced, the eggs were floating down to the Karnaphuli, evading the egg collectors. He further said that the district fisheries office wrote to the ministry to recuperate the losses caused by the WDB’s work.

Speaking to The Daily Star, eminent Halda researcher Manzoorul Kibria said, “The broodfish started laying eggs since Saturday evening. As night progressed, the release of eggs increased. 8,000kg of eggs were collected, which is around three times less than the previous year.”

This proves Halda is not in good health, he said.

Mohammad Elias, an egg collector at Hathazari upazila’s Ramdas Munsir Hat and whose family has been engaged in egg collection for generations, said, “I collected 70kg of eggs from 10:00pm to 3:00am on Saturday. From the netted amount, I will get 1.5kg fish. Last year, I netted more than 100kg,” he said.

“The Halda is dying,” he added.

Elias said his fellow collectors were able to collect even less eggs than he was.

Bidan Barua, another collector from Onkorighuna area of Raozan upazila, said the haul was frustrating after such a long wait.

“Two consecutive releases of sample eggs made us hopeful that we would have a big collection. But I collected on three boats and still netted less than 100kg,” he added.

According to sources, mechanised boats which carried the equipment and construction materials for WDB’s embankment work have also had adverse effects on the broodfish and their spawning.

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