At­tempts to curb elec­tric fish­ing fail­ing

The Myanmar Times - - News - SI THU LWIN sithul­win@mm­times.com

POACH­ERS are de­fy­ing the law and risk­ing im­pris­on­ment by con­tin­u­ing to use elec­tric-shock meth­ods to stun and catch fish, conservationists say. They say the prac­tise is in­flict­ing se­ri­ous dam­age on the ecosys­tems of the Aye­yarwady River.

The use of bat­ter­ies to stun fish, as well as the use of poi­son and ex­plo­sives, was banned by sec­tion 34 of the 2005 Fresh­wa­ter Fish­eries Law, which was passed as a con­ser­va­tion mea­sure.

U Kyaw Wan, who lives at Ma Yan­gon Chan jetty be­side the river, in Man­dalay Re­gion, told The Myan­mar Times, “The De­part­ment of Fish­eries is con­stantly ar­rest­ing peo­ple, but the prac­tice does not cease. It’s mostly done in sub­ur­ban ar­eas. The elec­tric shocks kill not just the fish but also all kinds of wa­ter in­sects. We used to have to clean the bugs off the hulls of our boats, but now there are no bugs. They’re al­most ex­tinct. They [shocks] kill an­i­mals too, and stop fish and their eggs from breed­ing.”

The law in par­tic­u­lar pro­tects the rare Ir­rawaddy dol­phin pop­u­la­tion, and bans fish­ing of any kind when fish are spawn­ing fry.

U Hla Win, re­gional of­fi­cer of the Man­dalay Re­gion fish­eries de­part­ment, told The Myan­mar Times on Novem­ber 3, “Fish­ing with ex­plo­sive ma­te­ri­als, poi­son or dan­ger­ous ma­te­ri­als like chem­i­cal sub­stances is pun­ish­able by three years in prison or a K200,000 fine, or both. We have made this clear to vil­lagers along the Aye­yarwady and in­tend to take se­ri­ous ac­tion, along with con­ser­va­tion groups, fish­eries lessees and lo­cal vil­lagers.

“But there are dif­fi­cul­ties in mak­ing ar­rests. It can be risky, as we have few staff. My­ingyan and Singu town­ships are the most com­mon places for this kind of ac­tiv­ity,” he said.

Dur­ing a raid con­ducted last April, po­lice made five ar­rests in My­ingyan township, pros­e­cut­ing two sus­pects and seiz­ing 12 types of banned ma­te­ri­als. In Singu township, they made 10 ar­rests, with two pros­e­cu­tions and con­fis­cated 12 types of banned ma­te­ri­als. Sim­i­lar op­er­a­tions were car­ried out in Ngazun and Madara town­ships.

The lo­cal au­thor­i­ties have run in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns in the vil­lages, telling them that in the pe­riod May through July, fish mi­grate to spawn and fish­ing in the rivers and lakes is banned at that time.

“All fish­ing is banned in the spawn­ing sea­son. Peo­ple still catch fish in the fish farms and sell them. We’re set­ting up a cen­tral re­search de­part­ment in co­op­er­a­tion with Korean donors,” said U Hla Win. There are 1102 fish farm­ers and 7902.433 acres (3160 hectares) of fish-farm­ing ponds in Man­dalay Re­gion, and the re­gion or­ders more than 15,000 viss of fish from Yan­gon daily (one viss equals 1.6kg or 3.6lbs). – Trans­la­tion by Emoon

and Win Thaw Thar

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