Bangladeshi Hilsa Fish _ UPSC

Bangladeshi Hilsa Fish


BSF seized 2,800 kg of Bangladeshi hilsa being smuggled into India since February

      WHY IN NEWS:

Bangladesh had banned the export of the hilsa from the Padma river, the main branch of the Ganga in the country, eight years ago.

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3: Agriculture : Aquaculture


For PRELIMS keep an eye on facts and the fishing grounds . Map out the distribution of this fish and remember the major exporters .

For MAINS take a note on threats, pressure and the obstacles faced by these vulnerable fishes . Let us dive in !


The number of fishing boats operating in the northern Bay of Bengal is in excess of the sustainable limit, resulting in overexploitation of the hilsa population.


  • There has been a persistent decline of fish catch in spite of increasing efforts.

A hilsa fish can weigh up to 2.5 kg and is rich in Omega-3-fatty acids.

  • The haul of juvenile hilsa and first spawners due to small mesh-size nets, which are detrimental to fish stock.
  • The enforcement of regulations is important for India to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 14 as a signatory.
  • SDG 14 commits countries to protect oceans and the lives that depend on it.


  • Like the salmon, hilsa live most of their lives in salt water and swim to freshwater and estuarine waters to spawn (release eggs).

Hilsa start swimming upstream during the southwest monsoon when the rivers swell.

  • The hatchlings go back to the sea and repeat the cycle.
  • They can cover as much as 70 km in a day.

The species is widespread– ranging from the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Vietnam Sea to China Sea.

  • Between July and October, large size groups of fish are abundant in the riverine area.
  • In general, about 80 to 90 percent of the hilsa is captured during monsoon months (July to October) coinciding with the upstream movement to the rivers and estuaries.
  • Annual average production of hilsa in India is 40,000 tonnes per year.

Bangladeshi Hilsa Fish _ UPSC


  • The sustainability of hilsa fishing practices in the northern Bay of Bengal region suggest that there is an excess of licensed fishing boats .

These boats are either mechanised boats or trawlers or non-motorised boats.

  • In West Bengal, hilsa is an important component of the state fishery.
  • Installation of a barrage in Farakka has completely intercepted the Hooghly-Bhagirathi migratory route of Hilsa since 1975.
  • Over-exploitation, siltation in riverbeds, dams, a decrease in water flow, pollution and fragmentation of the river in the dry season are key impediments to migration.


  • Hilsa normally has a life expectancy of four to five years if not fished out.
  • The juveniles are entangled in fishing gear during their seaward migration.
  • For four to five months, the juveniles feed in freshwater before they make a move to sea water.

They are caught in large numbers using nets of small mesh size during their grazing period in rivers as well as estuaries. 

  • Destruction of tiny hilsa and other fishlings are inadvertently brought upon by the prawn and prawn seed collectors using zero mesh nets.
  • They are not attaining the required length and weight.
  • There is no breeding ground for the fish in India.


  • The West Bengal government has imposed a fishing ban during the peak breeding period (between September 15 and October 24) every year .

Putting up bag nets, scoop nets and small mesh gill nets along the migratory route during to February to April each year is prohibited as per government regulations. 

  • However, this remains to be implemented at the ground level with participation from department of fishery, fishermen association, businessmen and consumers.

      IASbhai WINDUP: 

  • Hilsa is Bangladesh’s national fish.
  • The Bangladesh government has introduced an extensive hilsa management action plan to increase hilsa production .

The Bangladesh Government also offers VGF (vulnerable group feeding) programmes for poor fishermen during the ban period 

  • The popular fish (hilsa of the Padma river) was last year recognised as geographical indication (GI) product of Bangladesh.
     SOURCES:DownToEarth | Bangladeshi Hilsa Fish

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