Indiscriminate catching of egg bearing crabs continues in the Sundarbans, defying the two-month government ban meant for protecting the species during the ongoing breeding season.
The callous act is going on although the patrol teams of forest department have seized boats, crabs and crab catching traps from different areas of the Sundarbans.
Visiting different areas including Sharankhola and Chandpai range of the East Sundarbans division and some areas of West Sundarbans division including Dakope, Koyra and some areas of Satkhira, this correspondent found hundreds of fishermen catching crabs and shrimps with the help of current nets and traps.
During the breeding season in January-February, crabs release eggs in mangrove forests.
Catching of crabs in this time near the Sundarbans poses threat to the species and consequently, ecological balance in the region, said Zia Hyder Chowdhury, Bagerhat district fisheries officer.
After taking permission from the forest department for catching fish in the Sundarbans, a section of people are engaged in indiscriminate trapping of deer, collecting fish larvae and netting crabs, said a forest official of East Sundarbans Division, on condition of anonymity.
Abdus Sattar, a fisherman of Chila area of East Sundarbans, said most of the fishermen of Mongla, Rampal, Sharankhola, Morrelganj of Bagerhat and Dakope, Koyra of Khulna and Satkhira earn their livelihood by fishing in the Sundarbans with pass permit.
“As the price of crab is high, traders give money in advance for crabs to the fishermen, especially during the breeding period when those are available in the Sundarbans. And so, they prefer catching crabs to fishing,” he said.
Crab collected from the mangrove forest and other coastal areas of the southern region is exported to different countries.
Seeking anonymity, a crab trader said, “In January-February, there are many kinds of programmes in different countries including Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and China where the demand of crab is high. Besides, in the international market, the demand of egg bearing crab is high. Therefore, catching of the creature in mangrove forest areas is going on unabated.”
“One can get five to seven kg of crabs per day. Two to three big crabs weighing 1 kg is sold for Tk 600 to 700 per kg,” he added.
Contacted, Divisional Forest Officer (Sundarbans East) Mahamudul Hasan said, “Our forest guards as well as smart patrolling teams are very active in different areas of the Sundarbans. We will stop all kinds of illegal activities including crab catching in the areas at any cost.”