Poor fishermen and inhabitants of some small villages near the nationally acclaimed vast Ratargul Swamp forest have started getting benefits of an initiative taken up under a research programme by the Aquatic Resource Management department of the Sylhet Agricultural University (SAU).
Had we continued the ongoing process of water management through the two sanctuaries and their neighbouring water bodies, depletion of our own varieties would have come down in years, said Ratargul Co-management Committee president Mahbubul Alam.
Fall in the water level in the canals and indiscriminate fishing during the dry season causes sharp depletion of indigenous fish species. We have to take measures so that none can catch fish at that time when we have to ensure rearing and nursing of mola, dhela and others during the breeding season (April-June) through the pen method, Mahbubul added during a visit to the area recently.
The pens opened in June for letting the fries move for the large water bodies. The pens are set using bamboo and nets for rearing the breed fish.
The research programme started in July 2018 with a target to raise production of depleting fish varieties and sanctuaries had been set on three acres on two locations on Ratargul swamp forest and its Gurokchi canal, said Professor Kundu.
Professor Mrityunjoy Kundu, head, Aquatic Resource Management department at SAU, also the chief investigator of the project told this correspondent rearing of Mola and Dhela on the pens, set just on the side of the sanctuary and released soon after the breeding season has made tremendous impact to enhance these two micro nutrient rich small fishes.
Research work on 'enhancement of fish biodiversity and production in Sari-Goain River and its adjacent wetlands' was initiated by the Department of Aquatic Resource Management of SAU and Shahjalal University of Science & Technology (SUST) under the financial assistance of NATP Phase-2 Project of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council. The Local administration along with the department of Fishery also provided support, said the project's Field officer KM Alamgir Hossain.
Under the programme two fish sanctuaries have been established covering three acres area in Ratargul Swamp Forest and Gurukchi River of Goainghat upazila. Two management committees have been formed to take care of the sanctuaries with 50 fishermen of Gurukchi village and 30 of Ratargul Swamp Forest area.
When asked, describing the outcome, Gurukchi Matsyajibi Samabaya Samity Archana Das, 40 said people are getting benefits after starting the research activities in July 2018. Due to the effect of sanctuaries many endangered fish species are by now available in Sari-Goain river and on the adjacent water bodies, such as pabda, mola, dhela, boal, chital, ghora, khari, Nanidina etc.
Rearing of mola and dhela in pen established by the side of the sanctuary and released soon after breeding during April to June has made tremendous impact to enhance these two micro-nutrients rich small fish species. Co-chief investigator of the project Professor Md. Faisal of the SUST's Social Works department told this correspondent as a consequence, production of these species during monsoon has been increased as well as regained in nature. It was possible for better management of sanctuaries due to active participation of the fishermen. As an alternative income generating activities cage aquaculture with Telapia, pabda and pangas has been promoted under the technical and financial assistance of the project, said 45-year Bidyabala Debi 45. Sewing machines, goat, and sheep have been purchased through selling the cultured fishes and distributed to the fishers' family, said another beneficiary Dipti Rani 40.
Principal Investigator of the project Professor Dr. Mrityunjoy Kunda also said that fish habitats are squeezing, especially in winter due to siltation and pollution, at the same time fishing by dewatering is responsible for disappearing mola, dhela and other important species. He also added that establishment of fish sanctuary and rearing of important endangered fish species in pen and releasing them after breeding can be of helpful to continuous propagation and enhancement of indigenous fish species.