Narinjara News

Burmese fish: concern for Bangladesh!

By  Sein Mra Aung

Teknaf, 23
rd July 03: The markets of Bangladesh for some time have been flooded with the fish either imported or smuggled from Burma.  In recent weeks high concern has been raised about the quality and nature of preserving the Burmese freshwater and sea fish.

Everyday the fish from Sittwe and Rangoon make their way to Chittagong, the chief seaport of Bangladesh, loaded in trucks and boats through Teknaf in the southeastern tip of Bangladesh on the western bank of the Naaf River that serves as the common border.  From here the fish make their way to the markets across the country, and also beyond to West Bengal in India.  The Hilsa (or Rangoon Shad) is the hot item, much prized for its taste and Indian culinary.  Besides that other freshwater fish including the Ruhi (trout), Katla (Catla buchamani), Mrigal and Pangas (river catfish) are in hot demand, too.  For a long time the shrimp industry at Teknaf and Cox’s Bazaar has been dependent on the shrimp and prawns illegally and legally brought in from Burma.  In a month or two the season for shrimp and prawn will begin.

The fish traders at Teknaf have confirmed that the fish from Burma do not bear any quality certification by any standardization institution and in the same manner no one on the Bangladesh side conduct any check on the fish for fitness for general health and hygiene.   That has made way for a large amount of fish, unfit for human consumption, into the markets of Bangladesh and beyond. 

Sources said that fish from Rangoon come to Teknaf in two ways: in frozen containers and in large mechanized vessels.  The fish brought in containers are comparatively better while those brought in mechanized vessels often fail to meet the health standards since it takes as much as seven days for a vessel to sail to Teknaf from Rangoon.  In a week’s time the condition of the fish deteriorates.  By the time the consignment reaches Bangladesh the fish has already started to go bad.  The same fish is treated with harmful chemicals to keep firm till delivery.  From Teknaf the fish, preserved in ice, are now sent to Chittagong, from where they are trucked and shipped to the destinations inside the country. 

According to an estimate by a customs officer who wanted to remain anonymous, more than twice the volume of legal import of fish is smuggled into Bangladesh.  Many of the law enforcing agents who are entrusted with collection of duties are corrupt and in conjunction with the smugglers they allow the illegal trade to go on.  Because of the absence of the control of standards, they raise allegations of the consignments of being below standard to sponge bribes.  Many concerned citizens have raised questions, how long should this be permitted to go on.  #