Different species of fish in the Cumilla district are on the verge of extinction due to the random use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers in agricultural lands. Moreover, the dumping of chemical wastes in canals and water bodies by mills and factories is also one of the reasons behind it.
Md. Dulal Mia, a resident of Phulpukuria village of Monoharganj upazila of Cumilla, has been fishing with a net in a canal in the village for several years. But at present, there are no native fishes in the canal like before for which he is not getting native fish to net all day. He has to return home empty-handed most of the days without any fish even in the current monsoon season. Dulal's family is now passing days in extreme misery.
Not only Dulal, but the families of thousands of Cumilla fishermen are passing hard days for lack of naturally produced native fishes in rivers, canals, and open water bodies. As a result, many fishermen had to change their profession.
Dulal Mia said that even a few years ago, there was an abundance of native fishes in the village canals. After fishing for a few hours, a lot of different species of native fish could be found. The taste of these fishes was also great. But now those native fishes are no longer seen. He is now having a hard time with his family.
According to sources, various species of native fishes produced naturally in Cumilla are becoming extinct day by day. About half a hundred species of native fishes have already become extinct from the main rivers, canals and ponds, and open water bodies of the district.
In the last ten years, several species of fish have become extinct absolutely. However, once the native fishes of Cumilla's wetlands were supplied to different parts of the country including Dhaka after meeting the local demand.
According to the District Fisheries Office, a total of 13 rivers flowing through the district including the Meghna, Gomti, Kaladumur, and Dakatiya rivers are the main sources of native fish in Cumilla. Besides, the tributaries, sub-tributaries, and canals of these rivers have been rich in native fishes since ancient times.
However, due to uncontrolled use of pesticides in croplands, filling of rivers, canals, ponds, ditches, construction of dams in open water bodies, dumping of chemical waste of factories, use of illegal current nets and changes in fish habitats, various naturally produced native fishes are no longer available. In addition, due to the use of additional chemical fertilisers in the agricultural land, the mother fishes of the native species cannot breed or lay eggs.
In the meantime, the species of fish known to the locals as 'Nandia, Rita, Bacha, Chenua, Gowda, Naptini, Buita' have become completely extinct in the region.
Besides, about half a hundred species of fish including 'Bagair, Golsa, Pabda, Ayr, Namachanda, Tara Baim, Bara Baim, Kalibaush, Darkina' are on the verge of extinction. Most of the native species of fish that used to be found in the region are now extinct. As a result, the people of the district have to meet the demand with artificially produced hybrid fish.
Matin Saikat of Daudkandi in Cumilla, a state-awarded agriculture, environment, and social development organiser, has been working on fish farming for a long time. He said, "When water in the open water bodies decreases, a section of people actually fishes by applying poison. In addition, the uncontrolled use of pesticides on agricultural lands has destroyed the natural fish breeding for various reasons.
In order to protect natural fishes, these fishes also need to be reared. Fish should be given a chance to grow. We have to be humane towards fish."
According to sources, the local fishermen are now in dire straits due to the extinction of many native fishes from Cumilla's rivers, canals and open water bodies
At least ten fishermen including Humayun Kabir, Kamal Hossain and Shamsul Alam of the district headquarters said that the number of fishermen in Cumilla came to less than one-thirdagainst what was ten years ago.
Fishermen are moving to other professions for dearth of fishes in water bodies. Many fishermen are now making a living by driving rickshaws and auto-rickshaws.
District Fisheries Officer Sharif Uddin said, "The matter is really true. Various species of native fish produced naturally in Cumilla are becoming extinct day by day. We are constantly working to protect the native fishes. We are doing various works to increase the breeding and migration of fish. We are making people aware to protect these fishes."