Burma Eases 3-Month Fishing Ban

By May Soe San 3 June 2015

RANGOON — More than 1,000 trawlers have been given the greenlight to go back to catching fish off Burma’s coast after the fishing industry lodged a complaint over what had been a three-month ban on any fishing in the country’s territorial waters.

The ban from June through August was imposed in May by Burma’s Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development, which cited concerns about overfishing.

“Parliament decided to impose a total ban on fishing,” said Maung Maung Soe, chairman of the Myanmar Marine Fisheries Association. “We then sent a letter to the ministry, asking it to allow nearly 50 percent of fishing vessels to catch fish. There are over 2,000 fishing vessels [registered in Burma] and then the ministry allowed nearly 50 percent to catch fish.”

Early last month, the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development announced a three-month ban on fishing effective June 1.

A lawmaker had called for government action to handle depleting fish stocks in Burma’s territorial waters at the 12th regular session of Parliament in February and subsequently received parliamentary approval for a temporary halt to fishing operations of the country’s coast.

Four hundred vessels from Rangoon, 380 from Tenasserim Division, 200 from Irrawaddy Division and 40 from Arakan State,

A total of 1,020 trawlers from four of Burma’s six coastal divisions and states will be allowed to resume operations, said Maung Maung Soe.

For the fishing industry, the ban presents a predicament: While less fishing will help to replenish Burma’s dwindling fish stocks, the short-term effect potentially imperils the financial viability of fishing enterprises.

“[The fishing ban] does not trouble me much because I am hired as a skilled worker for the whole year including the post-fishing season period,” said Kyaw Lin Htike, who works on a seagoing trawler in Irrawaddy Division. “But it is a problem for daily wage earners. I have around 25 daily wage earners working under me.”

Operators of cold storage units, a business connected with the fishing industry, might be forced to suspend operations if a total ban on fishing were imposed for three months, warned fishing operators, adding the facilities’ employees to the ranks of fishermen without work.

Of more than 50 cold storage operators in Rangoon Division, around 30 rely on seafood and there are around 18,000 people working on fishing vessels in the division alone, according to the Myanmar Marine Fisheries Association.

Burma has a fishing territory of 486,000 square kilometers and there are a total of 2,594 legal fishing trawlers, according to the association.