Fishermen’s families in Goalanda Upazila of Rajbari have been in dire straits for the past few weeks with the Padma River water receding and creating shoals, making it unfavourable for an availability of fishes.

In Debgram and Daulatdia areas, many disappointed fishermen spend days sitting on the banks of the river, thinking about how to buy daily essentials for the day and the days ahead. They also have to pay their weekly loan installments. Some others are repairing their nets in the hope that the water will rise and bring different fishes, including ilish, to this part of the Padma in the next few weeks. Fisheries Department officials say that the navigability of the river has decreased, and there is no current. But they hope that there will be more fish soon.

Locals say many new shoals (char land) have appeared over the past few weeks. In Char Delandi area of Debagram Union under Golanda, the Padma has dried up and turned into a drain. In the middle of the river, a large sandbank has arisen.

Fishermen have been spending an idle time on the banks of the river. Some were seen repairing the tattered nets with the help of their family members, and some were wrapping nets and keeping them in piles, while others were doing boat repairs. Arman Khan, a fisherman, was repairing his torn net. His wife and daughter sat next to him. “After the hilsa conservation campaign ended [on October 28], we caught a good amount of fish for a few days. But there has not been much fish available for the last few weeks. We can catch big fish by using cotton nets. So, I am repairing the torn parts of it.”

Fisherman Akkas Sarder and his companions are sure they will not find enough fish in the river at this moment. “I got enough fish for a few days. But for some days there are not so many fish available. So I am keeping the net in the store.” Fisherman Khairul Khan said: “The water has receded, and there are many shoals here now. Therefore, no fish is available except for two or three small hilsa. I have to spend Tk1,000-1,500 daily on ten people working on three boats, but we get fish worth Tk500-600. How can I survive on this income?”

He said the fishermen expected a good catch since upstream they could not fish due to cold and fog. “We are all waiting with this hope in us.” Shah Mohammad Shahriar Zaman, senior fisheries officer in Goalanda, said there is no current in the river. Fishes are decreasing due to a lack of navigability. “In the future, hilsa fish will not be seen if shoals continue to emerge like this,” he added.