Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Attempts to curb electric fishing failing

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