Narinjara News


Sittwe, 3 October:  The markets of western Burma have for some time been flooded with shrimps and lobsters as the foreign buyers avoid buying them after the US imposed sanctions on Burma.

In Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State in Burma, while the price of rice  the staple food of the people  has doubled in last month alone, the price of a kilo of shrimp has gone down to a record low to one-fifth of the regular price, selling at about two thousand kyats, according to an official in the fisheries department.

“The prices of shrimp and other seafood items are nose-diving due to the declining orders from Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and other Fareast countries since the US imposed sanctions a couple of months ago,” he told our correspondent recently, “If the trend continues, those people engaged in exporting fish, including shrimps, will be seriously affected besides the ruling regime, which will suffer big losses in revenue earnings.”

This year the catch of jellyfish, another prized item, has been very bad, too.  A jelly fish trader who earned handsome profits last year said, “The jelly fish has dodged the nets of fishermen this year.  All the preparation we took to do business by bribing the concerned officials have gone in vain.  Now we have no other way than suffer the losses.”

Meanwhile the smuggling in of headless shrimps from Rakhine State has caused wide concern among the shrimp traders in the southeastern districts of Bangladesh.  The legal shrimp traders and growers have raised questions about the quality of the headless shrimps smuggled in from Burma in large quantities.  “Everyday hundreds and thousands of tonnes of shrimp are being smuggled into Bangladesh through Teknaf, opposite the western Burmese town of Maungdaw, though there is a clear ban on the import of headless shrimps, since they are difficult to check for quality,” reported the Dainik Cox’s Bazaar daily published in Bangladesh last week. “The growers and the shrimp buying houses are deeply concerned about the quality of the headless shrimps from Burma that never have quality approval certification.  Besides a glut in the shrimp export in the neighbouring Burma may indirectly affect the shrimp exporters here.  We are also concerned about the outbreak of any disease from any of the diseased shrimps smuggled in that way”, the paper added.

Not all people of Burma are unhappy after all.  A lady schoolteacher who was shopping in the Sittwe municipal market said to our correspondent, “We haven’t seen shrimps and lobsters for a long time, let alone buy for their prohibitive costs.  But now, well, the good old days are back again!  We can afford to add shrimps and other seafood items we relish to our daily meals.  My kids are happy, too.” 

Worse, there is a big environmental change, taking place along the seacoast of western Burma.  The salinity of the coastal water has come down alarmingly in the last few weeks for no apparent reason.  The official from the Fisheries Department said, “The drop in salinity of the seacoast will cause havoc.  The deep-sea fish that swim to the mouths of the rivers for spawning will now avoid their regular trip during the monsoons and do the same in the deep seas. There was less rain this year.  In fact less rain means more salinity. Yet salinity drop may have been caused by some other natural or artificial forces.  Over fishing, climatic changes and pollution in the Bay of Bengal have reached to almost a disaster point.  Dwindling jellyfish harvest is just one warning of the imminent danger.  Sea fauna of the Rakhine coastline, including marine molluscs, seashells and turtles are vanishing at an accelerated rate.  If nothing is done to check the disaster right now, it is not very long before we lose all our natural sea resources, including the sea flora, too.”  #