Very soon, you could be put in jail and even slapped with a fine for buying a Hilsa that weighs less than 500 grams. Known across the world as the ‘king of fish’ because of its unique taste, the Hilsa takes at least two years to attain that weight. With an average live expectancy of around four years, the fish may weigh up to 2.5 kilo. But these days you rarely see a Hilsa that big. And that’s why, law is stepping in.
The West Bengal Fisheries Department is planning to initiate a process that will introduce stiff penal provisions under CrPC and IPC and allow the police to arrest anyone for catching, selling and buying Hilsa weighing less than 500 grams.
“The proposal was floated at a recent meeting at the fisheries department. We will soon approach the state home department to start the process of bringing provisions under CrPc and IPC in this regard,” said state fisheries minister Chandranath Sinha.
If things go as planned, the Hilsa could become the first Indian fish to get legal protection, experts pointed out.
At present, the fisheries department doesn’t have the power to arrest or fine anyone for selling, catching and buying small Hilsa, commonly called “khoka ilish” in Bengal. But there are regulations. The government can confiscate a catch of fish and fishing net from a trader or fisherman. There is also a ban on catching Hilsa during pre-monsoon and post-monsoon season when the fish migrates to the Hooghly river from the sea for laying eggs.
“Tough legislation is necessary to conserve the hilsa population in the Hooghly River. The dwindling population has also pushed the price of a Hilsa weighing above a kilo to around `1,500. A big Hilsa is beyond the reach of the middle-class,” said Utpal Bhowmik an expert on Hilsa and a former scientist at the Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute.