Conservation of Juvenile Hilsa (Jatka) in Bangladesh: Need to Address the Livelihood of Fishers
Mohammad Abdul Latif Siddique
Abstract.—Hilsa Tenualosa ilisha (Hamilton, 1822) is a major food fish in Bangladesh and is hailed in Bengali as macher raja ilish, meaning “hilsa shad—the king of fish.” World catch of hilsa is approximately 0.3–0.4 million metric tons per year and 50–60% are caught in Bangladesh. Hilsa contributes 13–14% of total fish production and 1.25% of the gross domestic product in the country. The marine catch of hilsa increased threefold between 1984 and 2001, but inland production decreased by 19%. Dams lacking fish passage and indiscriminate catching of jatka (juvenile hilsa up to 23 cm long) in rivers are the major reasons for this declining trend in inland production. The livelihood of fishers is also vulnerable since 55% of hilsa and jatka fishers are engaged in inland fishing. Best management practices to control overfishing include conservation of jatka during their emigration from the spawning areas towards the sea to improve both the inland and sea production of hilsa. However, the livelihood of jatka fishers might be threatened during conservation measures because 60% of these fishers have no alternative income, not even subsistence agriculture. Therefore, it is as important to support these fishers (by providing appropriate alternative income generating activities) as it is to protect jatka, to ensure sustainable yields of hilsa in Bangladesh.