Dhaka, 6 March 2017. A group of 28 Rights Based Civil Society Networks, farmers, fishers and labour organizations have demanded immediate amendment to the draft Marine Fisheries Act 2016, which allows foreign fishing vessels to fish in Bangladesh territory with a license. The group formed a human chain and organized a rally today in front of the National Press Club has expressed its deep concern, as it believes; allowing foreign fishing vessels in Bangladesh territory will be suicidal for both the economy and for the security of the country. The human chain and rally titled ‘We demand amendment to the Draft marine Fisheries Act 2016: Allowing Foreign Fishing Vessels in Bangladesh Territory will be Suicidal’ was jointly organized by Online Knowledge Society, Arpon, Uddipan, Unnayan Dhara Trust, Udayan Bangladesh, SDO, COAST Trust, National Krishani Shova Labour Allince, National Labour Alliance, Dak Dia Jai, Docap, Dip Unnayan Society, Nolcity Model Society, Pirojpur Gono Unnayan Somity, Pran, Prantojon, PSI, Bangladesh, Farmer Federation, Bangladesh Bhumihin Somity, Labour Resource Centre, Bangladesh Krishi Firm Labour Federation, Sonkalpa Trust, Songram, CDP and Muktir Dak.
The rally was moderated by Mustafa Kamal Akand of COAST Trust, among others Subal Sarkar of Bangladesh Bhumihin Somity, Mihir Biswas of Bangladesh Paribesh Bachao Andolon, Engineer Foyez Ahmed of Sommilito Sromik Federation, Zayed Iqbal Khan of Bangladesh Krishak Federtaion and Rezaul Karim Chowdhury of EquityBD spoke at the occasion.
Subal Sarkar said, according to the international law Bangladesh is not bound to open its sea to foreign fishing vessels since it doesn’t have surplus fishing resources. The then undemocratic government passed the Marine Fisheries Ordinance in 1983 allowing license to foreign vessels. We demand the current democratic government to revise the Draft act in this regard. Engineer Foyez Ahmed said, there have been no survey on the resources of the Bay of Bangel during last 18 years. Without having proper survey, without knowing about the actual amount of resources, it will be very serious threat to our native fishermen if we allow foreign vessel into our territory. They will catch maximum fish as they have comparatively modern equipment and technologies. Mihir Biswas said, about half a million people are directly dependent on the Bangladesh area of the Bay of Bengal. Most of them are using traditional and undated gears or methods of fishing, marginalized fishers are being lagging behind of the mechanized boat owners. If the foreign vessels come, they will add more sufferings to the lives of the marginalized fishers. Zayed Iqbal Khan said, “our government should give priority to our people. The marine resources are yet to be enough for our people, so why should we not allow foreign fishing vessels?”
Rezaul karim Chowdhury said, we thank our Prime Minister for ensuring our rights to about 110000 square kilometers of sea. But, we think that, there is conspiracy to foil that victory. Some vested quarters are trying to invade our sea areas in the name of fishing. It will be tough for us to ensure security of our coastal areas if we allow foreign fishing vessels. Using modern technologies and equipment they will take most of our fish, it will also make our sea vulnerable in terms of national security. Our Navy must be modernized to establish sovereignty of our sea territory.
On behalf of the organizers some specific demands have been placed such as: 1) immediate amendment to the draft Marine Fisheries Act 2016, 2) Ban on new license to fishing trawlers before any survey to learn about the resources, 3) Ensure that fishing trawlers are fishing within their limit, even though large trawlers are not allowed within 40 meters of deep areas, sometimes large trawlers come even to the areas of small scale fishers, 4) Fishing license must be given to actual local fishing people, 4) All fishing boats must be registered, 5) Navy or coast guard must be modernized.
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