Parerhat, a local fish landing station of southwest surrounded by rivers and blessed with greenery. It is the only fish landing station of Pirojpur district which is locally called Badura Fish Landing Station. According to the locals, the name “Parer-hat” derived from the riverside-based ancient fish market on the bank of the Baleshwar River. Went to visit this ancient fish market on a fine morning of March 17 for a special quest.
Traditionally the fish landing of Parerhat has been carried out for last 50 to 70 years. The riverside flows within the Badura Fish Landing Station commonly known as “Kocha”. Approximately 30-50 trawlers offload their fish from the nearby sea usually during the weekends such as Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Auction starts from 7 a.m. and continues up to 10 a.m. Retailers, buyers, sellers and fishers of different villages are the main crowd of this landing station. Large verities of fish; freshwater as well as marine fishes, lobsters, squids, and other marine invertebrates are landed here in the particular seasons.
After searching the whole market under the scorching sun, with a broken heart reached to the riverside where few drying factories were settled for their seasonal business. Rashid Bhai, one of the drying businesspersons of Parerhat cordially welcomed me to visit his factory. He was showing me his factory where mostly local fish were being dried up for the export. All on a sudden he left me in awestruck feeling during showing his marine fish corner where sets of shark jaws and fins were left for drying. Finally met the special quest of mine that drawn me here.
Sharks and rays are included in the class Elasmobranch that mainly contains cartilaginous (soft-bony) fishes. Sharks are considered as one of the most threatened species worldwide due to their unrestricted overexploitation. According to Dulvy et al. (2003), 133 marine vertebrates, invertebrate, and algae populations have gone locally, regionally, or globally extinct of which 32 were sharks and rays due to exploitation. In our country, sharks and rays can be commonly seen at the landing centers of Southeast, specially at Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar. Last January, a news from the opposite of southeast which is southwest of Bangladesh made me curious to pay a visit to Pirojpur where a truck full with sharks were seized by the coast guards.
The harmony of nature and the soothing mild breeze of the riverside made it more comfortable to walk with Rashid Bhai towards the bazaar. Rashid Bhai was telling me his life story who mainly belonged from Chattagram but for seasonal income, he set his factories here in Pirojpur because of less competition and more money. He has been continuing his business here for last ten years. By employing 10-15 workers in each season he gets about 50-70% profit from his drying business. He was happily describing his business history and strategy but suddenly got nervous when I asked about shark products. After convincing, he started to tell about one of the most profitable sides of his drying business.
Landed sharks and rays are mainly the product of by-catch by the artisanal fishers of this region. The hunting of sharks and rays are restricted in the Forestry Act of Bangladesh though the Fish Act does not pose the restriction over catching. In this region, caught sharks and rays are mostly landed in the Mohipur and Dublar Char landing stations, only a few are brought to Parerhat for the local traders. They are irregularly landed throughout the year but regularly during the dry season, from November to March. They are mostly dried and export to the shark fin market of Chattagram from where the fins and dried meat get exposed to the international market. All sizes of sharks and rays are being dried here; from smaller Spadenose to larger Bulls. Huge jaws and fins of bulls, as well as other sharks, are of great demand to the traders. The price of this elasmobranchs is high regarding their highly valued fins. Shark fin soup considered as a delicacy around the world which initiated the worldwide overexploitation of shark fisheries. Though being the bycatch, the number of landed sharks and rays remain unreported due to the absence of BFDC Landing Centre in Parerhat. Local drying factories export the valuable body part to Chattagram and the remaining waste products are utilized for feed production.
In the meanwhile, asked Rashid Bhai about any sighting of a saw-like fish. In return, he gave me a suspicious smile and told about the myth of the saw-like fish, which can cure cancer. He took me to a store in Bazaar where a saw was hanging as a trophy. He handed it to me and told that it was just three months old. I was speechless at that moment as I encountered the first saw of my life. Saw of an unfortunate Sawfish, which is listed in the IUCN RED LIST as the most critically endangered species, standing on the brink of extinction. q (To be continued)
Sabrina Sabbir, a WildTeam volunteer