Myanmar Consolidated Media
Education feature story
60th Anniversary of Indonesia~Myanmar

Fisheries department looks to protect hilsa

By Than Htike Oo
March 7 - 13,, 2011

A young fisherman holds a hilsa shad caught earlier that day near Labutta.  Pic: Kyaw Hsu Mon

THE Department of Fisheries has set in motion a plan to protect hilsa shad (nga tha lauk), a major export fish and a local delicacy, from overfishing.

“Hilsa shad has been one of the top five fisheries exports from 2006 onward but we’ve not yet found a way to farm it, so we recognise that we must protect it from overfishing or risk losing it,” said U Khin Ko Lay, the director general of the Department of Fisheries (DOF).

According to DOF statistics, hilsa shad was the second-highest fish export after rohu last financial year.

The department organised a workshop and paper reading section on the hilsa shad in Yangon on February 25 that attracted 91 people from the department, universities and the Myanmar Fishery Federation.

U Maung Maung Soe, chairman of the Myanmar Marine Fishing Association, read a paper on the sustainable harvesting of hilsa shad, while Professor Khin Maung Cho from Pathein University’s zoological department read a report on the occurrence of the fish in the Myeik Archipelago.

Seven other papers were also presented on the conservation of hilsa shad.

“We recognised 10 things we must start doing to protect the hilsa shad, which will become the foundation of our conservation plan,” U Khin Ko Lay said.

The recommendations include increasing the size of the holes in fishing nets, identifying and protecting breeding grounds, designating closed areas and seasons and regulating the number of fishing boats.

“The department will ban the use of green-coloured nets for fishing – they will only be allowed in prawn fishing.

“Three layer nets will also be banned starting from September 1 this year,” U Khin Ko Lay said.

He said the three layer nets are widely used in Rakhine State to catch prawn but the nets also snare unwanted fish as well and are very dangerous from a conservation point of view.

The department will also ban the catch of hilsa shad with nets that have holes smaller than 4 inches (10 centimetres) in size, he said.

“We will also determine which areas are hilsa shad breeding grounds and close them to fishing,” U Khin Ko Lay said.

He added that a national taskforce would be formed from members of the DOF, the Myanmar Fisheries Federation, fishermen and local authorities.

“Hilsa shad is mostly caught in Myanmar, Bangladesh and India but Bangladesh exports more than five times what we do, so we intend to share our information with them as well,” he said.

U Khin Ko Lay warned that now is the time to act to protect hilsa shad for generations to come.

“There are five known species of hilsa and Myanmar waters has two: hilsa shad and toli shad. A third, hilsa keele has already disappeared from our waters.”