Lawmaker Urges Action on Illegal Fishing in Arakan State

By Htet Naing Zaw 22 November 2016

RANGOON — An Upper House lawmaker urged the Union government to prevent trawlers from Bangladesh from illegally fishing in Burmese waters and to provide security for local fishermen on Arakan State’s coast.

Lawmaker U Khin Maung Latt—representing Arakan State Constituency 3 asked in the Upper House—asked on Monday if the government had plans to revitalize small-scale fishing on the coast between state capital Sittwe and Maungdaw Township as illegal fishing in the area has crippled the livelihoods of locals for the last 20 years.

“Illegal Bangladeshi fishing trawlers have trespassed along 40 miles of the 60-mile Arakan,” U Khin Maung Latt told the Upper House. “There is usually over 20 people on board each trawler.”

Locals have witnessed illegal fishing trawlers enter Burmese waters at night and leave in the morning.

He alleged that Bangladeshi fishing trawlers pay a monthly fee of 50,000 kyats to local authorities for access.

U Khin Maung Latt said in Parliament he was worried that illegal fishing trawlers were working with local Muslim Rohingya fishermen, an allegation that could not be verified.

The Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Dr. Aung Thu replied that he would provide an answer together with the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Arakan State government.

The responsibilities of the agriculture ministry’s Fisheries Department are limited to checking registration of sea-going trawlers on their arrival and departure, he said.

“When it comes to fishing trawlers [operating] at sea, the Defense Ministry takes responsibility. In the sea around Rathedaung Township, Burma police are providing security,” said Dr. Aung Thu.

Under 1991 orders, the Burma Army and navy are responsible for the security of Burma’s sea territory and taking action against local and foreign vessels, including fishing trawlers.

According to Dr Aung Thu, Since January 2013 action was taken against 17 vessels smuggling timber logs, 12 vessels smuggling drugs, six vessels smuggling goods, six vessels trafficking humans, and three illegal fishing trawlers of foreign countries, totaling 60 vessels and the seizure of smuggled goods amounting to two billion kyat.

The minister said that his ministry has been designing a work plan for development of fishing industry in Arakan State as well as the development of Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships.

The ministry submitted a plan to the government in July this year for cooperation with UN agencies and international partners.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko