Arrests of illegal fishers on the rise
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