Education, punishment and job creation needed to fight electrofishing

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As the rainy season approaches, it is delightful to see ceremonies to release fingerlings into lakes and rivers, as part of efforts for the food sufficiency of the country.
However, on the dark side of the fishery sector, illegal electrofishing has become a big challenge for conservationists and local authorities in their quest to save not only the endangered fish species but also the fish population in rivers and creeks, which people have been relying on for food since the days of yore.
The Myanmar government has banned electrofishing nationwide, punishing violators with a three-year prison sentence and a Ks300,000 fine.
The illegal fishing method involves putting lines of wire into the water, connecting the two ends to a battery and passing an electric shock into the water. This stuns the fish, which then float to the surface.
The technique kills fish of all sizes.
In some cases, it is found that the Ayeyawady dolphins, which are facing the risk of extinction, often also fall prey to electrocution.
According to a local report, a total of 21 cases of electrofishing in Singu and Thabeikkyin townships in Sagaing Region were reported in the 2017-2018 fiscal year. We can imagine that the number must reach over hundreds if we count cases across the country.
Meanwhile, news of fishermen being killed as a result of electrofishing in rivers and creeks is also frequently reported the in dailies.
In a bid to prevent fish resources from extinction in the country and to save lives, the district and township fisheries departments should draw up projects to eliminate illegal fishing methods, such as electrocution.
At the same time, the existing laws and laws amended to be adaptable with the current age are being reviewed to comply with international standardisation.
We should educate people about the ban on electrofishing and the penalties for violators.
Before alarm bells ring, authorities should step up efforts to tackle illegal fishing through education and punishment. While the people, authorities and conservationists are deeply concerned about saving the endangered species and the sustainability of fishing stocks in rivers and creeks, the violators would be reflecting about their jobs and livelihoods. Just educating them would not be enough to fight illegal fishing.

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