Despite resumption of fishing which was suspended following deadly violent attacks in November and October and November last year, fishermen in Maungtaw District, Rakhine State, are facing challenges for nearshore fishing at night due to curfew order and labourers who have not yet received the National Verification cards.
“More than four-month ban on fishing has caused challenges for both fishing business men and workers,” said U Maung Myint, a local fishing business man in Maungtaw.
As part of efforts for remove the constraints, the authorities have issued fishing licenses to trawlers and boats in the district including 83 above 20-horse power trawlers, 203 trawlers under 20-horsepower and 161 boats from Maungni, Nyaungpingyi, Ale Thankyaw, Myinlut, Kyaukpanu, Inndin and Thayetchaung villages in Maungtaw Township from 11th to 20th January.
About 300 fishing trawlers and about 1,300 manageable-level fishing boats operate in Rakhine State for nearshore fishing to fulfil domestic demand for fishery products per year. The district depends heavily on fishing industry in which more than 70,000 families are relying for their livelihood.
“We are taking measures to assist the fishermen in selling the product at local markets and in exporting to Bangladesh legally. Meanwhile, we will enforce fishing rules on them so that they can fish in accordance with the fishing rules,” said U Naing Win Thein, Deputy Director of the Maungtaw District Fishing Department.
Fishing trawlers in Rakhine State were monitored by combined teams of the Department of Marine Administration, the Fisheries Department, Myanma Insurance, police and township general administration departments in the state in Sittway, Pauktaw and Yanbye Townships.
Arrangements are underway to conduct surveys in Alethankyaw Village in Maungtaw Township to issue licenses for fishing in the near future.
A 2014 Oxfam report on Rakhine’s fisheries estimated that 43 per cent of the population gain income from fishing, or a combination of fishing and farming.
While Myanmar and international trawlers operate off the coast, most local communities rely on medium to small-scale fishing operations. The local fishing sector has been beset by a number of problems, most importantly a dramatic decline in catch and a lack of storage technology and transport options so its produce can be sold in Myanmar’s cities or in neighbouring Bangladesh.
The Oxfam report cites a study by the Department of Fisheries and Norwegian researchers that estimates a decline of fisheries in Rakhine of about 65 per cent in the last 30 years, though other estimates are even higher.
The number cold storage facilities have also decreased in recent years due to high cost of electricity, while there has been no improvement in road connections to Yangon. As a result, most of the catch is sold locally at relatively low prices, according to a research paper on small-scale fishermen in Rakhine published in the Journal of Burmese Scholarship last August.
Zin Oo (Myanma Alin)