Vol. 5 Num 358 Wed. June 01, 2005  
Star Chittagong

Alarming decline in fish fry production
Country's lone natural fish spawning and breeding centre in the river Halda is at stake

Collection of fertilised eggs and production of fries have declined at an alarming rate following the illegal netting of broad fishes (mother fishes) and conventional hatching of spawn in the river Halda, sources said.

The country's lone natural spawning and breeding centre of fishes in the river bordering Hathazari and Raozan upazilas is at stake.

Checking netting of broad fishes and proper care can enable the spawning and breeding centre to earn several crore taka only from the sale of fries, experts said. At the same time with a 90 per cent survivability rate and proper growth of the fries, the Halda can earn over Tk 3000 crore every year, they added.

During Baishakh and Jaishtha (April and May) every year different species of giant fishes like Ruhi, Katla, Mrigel and Kaliboush start migration from the river Karnaphuli, the Matamuhuri and the Sangu to the spawning centre at Halda.

At a suitable juncture of dark fortnight or full moon and in congenial weather, particularly at the first shower of the monsoon, they start releasing fertilised eggs (locally known as Swarna Renu - gold sperm) at a 10-km stretch from Sartterghat to Madunaghat of Raozan upazila.

The spawns are released in two to three phases. Each phase continues for around 12 hours when the spawning centre takes a festive look with hundreds of local people in small boats collecting the eggs.

The fertilised eggs are preserved in small holes dug at the homesteads to hatch out within four days. The four-day fries are sold at Tk 12,000 to 14,000 per kg to farmers coming from different parts of the country. After some 15 days one kg of four-day fries produces over 2 lakh finger-sized fries to earn at least Tk 2 lakh, sources said.

Prof Mohammad Ali Azadi, a teacher of zoology department of Chittagong University, said that a middle sized major carp of 15kg releases over 30 lakh fertilized eggs. With even 30 per cent survival rate at each level, these eggs can produce one kg of four-day fries and bring forth 2 lakh finger-sized fries to earn at least Tk 2 lakh.

Prof Azadi, who has studied on spawning and breeding of mild water fishes at the Halda for the last two decades, said that spawn collection from the Halda began in 1945. At that time around 65,000 kgs of spawns were collected on an average every year.

Prof Azadi said the highest quantity of 1.23 lakh kgs of fertilised eggs were collected from Halda in 1946. It produced 4,111 kgs of four-day fries. At the present rate of Tk 14,000, 4111 kgs of fries alone could have earned Tk 6 crore.

Sources in the District Fisheries Office (DFO) said in the fifties Halda provided around 70 percent fries of major carps. The Padma, Jamuna and Brahmaputra provided the remaining 30 percent.

The fertilized eggs collected from the Halda were as follows 33,750 kgs in 1997, 14,547 kgs in 1998, 65,820 kgs in 1999, 75,000 kgs in 2000 and 22,922 kgs in 2001, official statistics says.

Over 3,000 people in 700 small boats collected 25,835 kgs of fertilised spawns and had 598.68 kgs of four-day fries in 2002.

In 2003, only 217 kg spawns were collected while the major carps released unfertilised eggs (sample eggs) in two phases to produce only 4 kgs of spawns (four-day fries).

This year, however, the collection marked a bit rise when major carps released eggs in two phases on April 13 and May 22.

But only some 40 per cent of the eggs weighing some 7,000 kgs (including water) could be collected as the first phase of release (April 13) took place unusually earlier.

These spawns were likely to bring forth a few more than 100 kgs of four-day fries, sources said.

Experts said conventional hatching of spawns produces only one bucket of four-day fries from 15 buckets of spawns while their survivability rate is below 50 percent.

Hatching of the spawns in clear water of plastic or tiled tanks raises the rates of hatching and survivability to 90 per cent and proper preservation and management of this natural spawning and breeding centre alone can flood the country with fishes, they said.

Prof Azadi said declaring the 10km of the Halda from Satterghat to Madunaghat as a fish sanctuary was a must for increasing release and collection of spawns.

Besides, there should be a ban on fishing in the Halda as well as in the other related rivers -- the Karnaphuli, the Sangu and the Matamuhuri -- from where the broad fishes migrate before breeding (late March to early July), he said.

Local people collect fertilised eggs of major carps with porous clothe at the Halda river, the country's lone fish spawning and breeding centre. PHOTO: Zobaer Hossain Sikder