Illegal fishing on the rise in Chitwan park riversOn Sunday, 24 individuals were arrested on the charge of fishing indigenous fish species from Bhagedi along the Narayani river.
Fishing in Narayani, Rapti and other streams in the Chitwan National Park has been prohibited this season in light of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, people have continued fishing in the streams by taking advantage of the prohibitory order in Chitwan district, officials at the park say.
On Sunday night, 24 individuals were arrested on the charge of fishing indigenous fish species from Bhagedi along the Narayani river.
“They were caught red-handed,” said Lokendra Adhikari, assistant chief conservation officer of the park. “Two quintals of fish and 44 fishing nets were seized from them.”
The fishers were held by a patrol team of park officials and Nepal Army soldiers.
According to the national park, 120 species of fish, including bighead carps, silver carps, rohu, naini, mrigal, silverfish, catfish and eels, are found in the rivers and streams at the park.
“Mid-April to mid-May is the reproductive period of fish. The park prohibits fishing along the river and streams in the time period as the fish lay eggs and reproduce,” said Ananath Baral, chief conservation officer of the park. “This is a vital period in the fishes’ reproductive cycle.”
The park also prohibits intruders into the park area since there’s a high risk of wild animal attack.
Sixty-year-old Gobinda Bahadur Raut of Thori in Parsa district went to the park forests to collect wild mushrooms on May 13. He was killed in a wild elephant attack.
According to Prakash Dhungana, the chairman of the buffer zone consumer management committee of Chitwan National Park, two people who had gone to the Patihani area of the park during last year’s lockdown were also killed by tigers in separate incidents.
Only 203 Botes and Majhis have the permit to fish along the rivers and streams of the park. But fishing for them is also prohibited in light of the pandemic.
Bina Bote, coordinator of the women wing of Nepal Bote Samaj, claimed that all those who have been caught illegally fishing in the park were from outside their community. “The outsiders catch fish in the rivers and streams of the national park and defame us,” she said.
She also said the local bote people have had to pay fines for trespassing into the national park even when they were not involved in such activities.
“The Bote people have a fishing license issued by the national park. We follow the rules. But people outside from our community might have entered the park,” she added.
The park officials have detained 42 people on charges of illegal fishing in the national park area since April 29.
Under the existing legal provisions, one will be fined Rs 10,000 and jailed up to six months if one is found entering the park area illegally and catching fish.
Various rivers and streams including Narayani and Rapti are the habitat of critically endangered Gharials who feed on fish to survive.