Journey Through Bangladesh
Fishing at Tanguar Haor
It is a primitive life that these people live, and nature is their sole provider.
Simplicity in their creed helps preserve the balance of life in and around the haor.
Thanks to IUCN and MoEF, all of this is being preserved once again.
Zahidul Naim Zakaria
Tanguar hoar is a wetland comprising of 52 large water bodies and covers an area of approximately 10,000 hectares. The area is accessible by foot and motorcycle only. It is a vast water body composed of many smaller ones that become connected during the rainy season as the water level goes up. More than 56,000 people are located in 88 villages around its periphery and rely on the local natural resources for survival. To most of these people, fishing is not only an occupation; it is a way of life.
Aziur Rahman, a fisherman at Tanguar Haor, catches fish with only his 10-year-old son manning his boat. Often he has to dive down into the water to ensure that the fish caught in his net are not able to wiggle them way out. He can survive well if he catches 2 or 3 big fish every day.
Azizur Rahman with his 10 year old son fishing on the Tanguar Hoar
Most commercial fishermen band together in groups of 5 or 6 and fish together. In this manner, they can establish a greater perimeter within which to lure fish into their nets, thus catching fish becomes easier. By grouping together, they can divide the work amongst them and the process of catching fish becomes more efficient. Instead of one fisherman being in charge of everything, which is quite difficult, one or two fishermen in the group can lure the fishesin by pushing their rows and hard nets around and scrambling the fish. Two other s can be in the water trapping the fish completely by closing the net once the fish enters it and another fisherman can, on the boat, pull out the net and arrange the fishes caught.
Not very long ago, the ponds at the haor used to be leased out to powerful water lords who would catch as much fish as they could, thus reducing future stocks. Even a year ago, these fisherman had to pay bribes to local influential men in order to obtain the right to fish in the ponds of the haor. Now through licensing of fishermen and community ownership of the haor, such corruption has been curbed. There are two licenses, one for subsistence fishing and one for commercial fishing. Through licensing, the community ensures that over-fishing does not occur and mother fishes are not caught, therefore ensuring that future fish stocks are not falling. To ensure that fishing occurs in a manner that takes into account the rights of future generations, thus keeping fish stocks stable over the years is a fundamental principle of sustainability. Also contributing to that end are the creating of certain 'no-fishing' zones where fish can breed in peace, while beefing up security answers only licensed fishermen have access to the haor.
Based on a baseline report of 2008 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the total open water fish production of Sunamganj in one year is 45,173 mt and the estimated fish production from Tanguar Haor is about 6,500 tons. The proportion of Tanguar Haor's output compared to the output of Sunamganj district is 14% and compared to the whole of Bangladesh, it is 0.67%. The wetland serves not only as a collection of fishing grounds, but also as a safe haven for migratory birds and as a hotbed of thriving biodiversity.
Thanks to the efforts of the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) and IUCN, the community has found new hope of sustaining their livelihoods whilst protecting a mother fishery of the country, and along with it, save the immensely rich biodiversity that thrives there.
For an in-depth look into the activities at Tanguar Haor, log on to www.thedailystar.net/starinsight and look up the 27 February 2010 issue of Star Insight.
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