They poison canals in the Sundarbans for catches

By Morshed Ali Khan 

Poachers are using lethal poison in rivers and canals in the Sundarbans to catch shrimps, crabs and other fishes.

Use of such poison has been so rampant that the ecology of some areas in the Sundarbans have now come under threat, authorities there said.

"I caught some people red-handed recently with bottles of poison from the river," said Habibur Rahman Khan, Deputy Ranger and Station Officer of Dhaingamari forest office. "But the culprits were released because we failed to provide the court with test report on the fishes they had caught."

The official said that the court had asked the Forest Department to prove that the dead fishes were killed by poisoning. "We have no mechanism here to test the fishes. So nothing could be done," he said.

Explaining how the poisoning is done, the ranger said the poachers use a poison called "RIBCOT", contained in a bottle similar to that of a cough syrup.

"They spray few drops of this lethal liquid into the canal and within minutes all types of shrimps and crabs start crawling up the shores in a bid to escape. The poachers quickly pick their catches and disappear into the vast network of canals of the mangrove. Within half an hour, fishing is complete.

"Other fishes get washed away in the current, dead or dying. The poachers are more interested in shrimps and crabs for their high prices and easy sale," he said.

Some fishermen queuing in the Dhaingamari forest office to get their fishing licenses renewed told this correspondent that the poisoning has become so rampant these days that they are hardly getting any fish.

A fisherman, Bimal Chandra said as the poisonous water mixes with the current towards the sea, it kills fishes, baby crocodiles, snakes and many other aquatic creatures until it gets diluted in the big river.

Bimal said this particular poison is smuggled from across the border and is available in the shops selling pesticide and insecticide in the villages near the forest. "A bottle costs between Tk 100 and 150," he said.

Forest officials at Karamjal Forest Patrol Post under Chandpai Forest Range also complained about poaching by poisoning. "This problem exists in many parts of the forest," said an official.

Source: The Daily Star, January 10, 1998