New Delhi, July 6 There is a bad news for Hilsha fish lovers in India as Bangladesh has banned hoarding and export of its national fish, called the hilsha, for next six months to keep prices down in markets and to ensure supplies. Silvery hilshas swarm into Bangladeshi rivers from the Bay of Bengal between June and September and the fish are popular for their tasty flesh. According to the Reuters, Bangladesh exports about 5 billion taka ($70 million) of hilsha annually, mostly to India.
"We decided to impose the ban on hilsha export to increase its availability in the domestic markets and make them affordable to the common people," said C.S. Karim, fisheries and agriculture adviser to the interim government.
This year the price of a one kilogram hilsha soared up to 800 taka ($11.60) in Bangladeshi markets. In markets in Kolkata and Mumbai, the fish sell for less than a third of that price, traders and border officials said.
The government made a law years ago to prevent catching of "baby hilshas" from November to May each year, which is their breeding season. But hardly anyone obeys the restriction. A full-grown hilsha weighs up to 4 kgs, traders say.
The interim government has also asked the navy and coast guard to increase vigilance at sea to check illegal catching of hilshas by vessels from India, Myanmar and Thailand and to prevent smuggling, government officials said.
According to a study of the Central Bank, some unscrupulous traders have been exporting hilsha to India at prices much lower than in domestic markets. In 2006, the total hilsha catch was 280,000 tonnes against 276,000 tonnes in the previous year, officials at the fisheries department said.