Bangladeshi fishermen can’t fish in the Bay of Bengal, the body of water off the country’s coast, for the next 65 days in an effort to protect certain fish species, according to the BBC.
It’s the first time that the government has banned local fishing boats from going into the bay.
Although the new measure disrupts the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen, the government said it’s necessary to allow fish populations to recover.
The ban, which runs from May 20 to June 23, will occur the same time period every year going forward.
Various species are now entering their breeding seasons, and the new rule will allow them to re-populate without interference. Letting fishing levels continue throughout this period, the government worries, could potentially cause populations to collapse.
"These resources will deplete one day if we do not use them sustainably," Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru, fisheries and livestock minister, told the Dhaka Tribune. "We should let fish grow and breed. Otherwise, we will have to suffer in the future."
Fishing associations have planned to protest the new ban and are calling on the government to reconsider its plan, the BBC reports.
But it’s unlikely that authorities will budge considering the scale of the problem and the importance of healthy fish populations, which account for 50% of the average person’s protein intake in Bangladesh.
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Popular fish have declined in the Bay of Bengal in recent years. Increased demand for the hilsa fish, for example, has caused the species to decline, creating alarm among the more than 3 million people who work in the country’s fishing industry.
Local fishermen are not the only threat to fish species. The Bay of Bengal is also surrounded by India and Myanmar, which both have big fishing industries.
Fishermen in all three countries have combined to drive down the populations of commercial species including prawns, and a massive deadzone caused by pollution has hindered the ability of fish in the region to reproduce, the Guardian reports.
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The problem is exacerbated by large fishing vessels that unfurl miles-long trawling nets that rapidly deplete schools of fish. This practice also leads to bycatch, the phenomenon of catching unintended species, which leads to the loss of billions of fish and other marine animals each year.
Fish populations around the world have plunged in recent years because of overfishing. In fact, a third of all fish species are overfished, and 90% of fish are being caught at their maximum sustainable level, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.
Overfishing is largely the result of weak oversight and inconsistent enforcement of rules throughout the world’s oceans. But as threats ranging from climate change to pollution threaten marine ecosystems, countries have begun to develop international protocols for managing fisheries.
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The UN argues that sustainable fishing can be done in a way that sustains economic activity and tackles world hunger. The opposite — continued overfishing — would both put people of jobs and increase world hunger.