Ar­rests of il­le­gal fish­ers on the rise

The Myanmar Times - - News - MAUNG ZAW maungzaw@mm­times.com

IL­LE­GAL fish­ers be­ware: Man­dalay of­fi­cers are crack­ing down.

A joint op­er­a­tion be­tween the De­part­ment of Fish­eries (DoF) and Man­dalay Re­gion po­lice force has al­ready net­ted more peo­ple en­gaged in il­le­gal fish­ing ac­tiv­i­ties this year than ever be­fore.

Ac­cord­ing to Man­dalay’s DoF di­rec­tor, U Hla Win, more peo­ple have been ar­rested since the start of this year than in the pre­vi­ous two years com­bined.

“While we made some ar­rests for il­le­gal fish­ing in pre­vi­ous years, there has been a sharp in­crease in the num­ber of ar­rests this year,” he said. “We have not only ar­rested those in­volved, but we have also im­pounded ves­sels used in the il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties.”

So far this year, 26 ar­rests have been made com­pared to 16 in 2015 and eight in 2014. The num­ber of ju­di­cial ac­tions ini­ti­ated by the DoF has also dou­bled in the past year from three to six.

“Those we ar­rested could not give us a fixed ad­dress for where they are liv­ing. It seems that they are mov­ing from place to place on their boats. Peo­ple from nearby vil­lages were barely in­cluded in the ar­rests ... Al­most all those ar­rested come from other ar­eas,” U Hla Win said.

“Il­le­gal fish­ing places species of fish at risk of be­ing de­pleted. Also we have seen en­dan­gered marine life be­ing killed by elec­tro-fish­ing,” he added.

Last month, a preg­nant Ir­rawaddy dol­phin was found dead near Kho Taung vil­lage in Sa­gaing Re­gion, thought to have been killed by il­le­gal elec­tric shock fish­ing. Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey car­ried out by the De­part­ment of Fish­eries in Fe­bru­ary, there are only 65 mem­bers of this species left in the Aye­yarwady River.

“In or­der to bol­ster our ef­forts against il­le­gal fish­ing, we plan to en­list the help of the re­gional govern­ment be­fore the end of the month. We hope to re­duce il­le­gal fish­ing ac­tiv­i­ties through co­op­er­a­tion with lo­cal po­lice and the marine po­lice force,” U Hla Win said.

Un­der Man­dalay fish­eries law, those found guilty of il­le­gal fish­ing may face up to three years’ im­pris­on­ment, a K200,000 fine, or both.

The DoF plans to con­duct ed­u­ca­tional sem­i­nars aimed at dis­cour­ag­ing the pub­lic from con­duct­ing elec­tric or chem­i­cal fish­ing and will ask res­i­dents for their sup­port in the crack­down on these il­le­gal mar­itime ac­tiv­i­ties.

Lo­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal groups have ex­pressed sup­port for the govern­ment’s ini­tia­tive.

“Ur­gent, ef­fec­tive ac­tion is re­quired in the fight against il­le­gal fish­ing. We can’t let [these fish­er­men] de­stroy our nat­u­ral re­sources any fur­ther. It is time for us all to co­op­er­ate,” said U Maung Maung Oo, a lo­cal con­ser­va­tion­ist.

– Trans­la­tion by Zar Zar Soe

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