Bhutan though being one of the smallest countries yet is being flooded with people from different walks of life. A country which governs on the principles of Gross National Happiness have strived to bring people from different ethnic background to a system. A system which consider others happiness as one of the important goals of life. Empathy, sympathy and all comprehensible nature has been in our genetic for long but has been boosted when laws and policies enshrined in different books of organization are being enforced. However, there are still half of the people who could not be connected with the objectives and mandates of our policies and laws. For long most of the people perceived fishing isn’t allowed in Bhutan, it’s by this very reason people are caught by the foresters with illegal fishing in riverside without permit and license. Fishing is allowed in Bhutan but with valid permit and License but I don’t know how many are aware of it.
In the unrestricted areas identified by the department fishing is allowed and permitted but with valid permit. The permit ranges from days to weeks and if it is to proceed for months even fishing license is being levied by the department. But the underling fact is trade of fish as occupation in the event isn’t allowed. Moreover, there are still provisions in the rules that those community having customary rights to harvest fish from the designated river/stream is allowed in accordance with their management plan. A management plan developed in collaboration with relevant department and agency.
What could be the reason for restricting fishing in Bhutan?
In my narrow views, sale and fishing is restricted in Bhutan by the fact of being GNH country. A country which considers happiness as epitome aim rather than being wealthy. Bhutan could have become one of the developed countries if our resources are exploited like other developed worlds. To sustain happiness for people and all sentient beings are the vision of our great leaders. When the spirituality and mentality of the person is stable we consider the person is wealthy. Happiness in humanity is important so is the happiness for other sentient beings. From the scientific point of view fish plays vital role in maintaining river ecosystem. They maintain marine habitats and are complexly related to other organisms through food web and other mechanisms. Intensive fishing is known to disseminate fish species and also affects the entire biological communities. Furthermore, Golden Masheer one of the threatened species is found to be declining in the Himalayan region due to population, habitat loss and fishing. Because it plays vital role in balancing river ecosystem through predation, the fish is important indicator of river ecosystem (Tshewang, 2015).
“We feed the fish and let it grow but outsiders cherish and sell back the fish to Bhutan, our fish become their economy”. I was told with realistic joke by a man once upon a time. Looking at our economic perspective, yes it’s very true that we import huge amount of fish from neighboring countries though we have plenty of fish. We even restrict in-fact our local people perceive fishing is illegal in country. The hiding game often leads to enforcement of fines and compensation for own localities. Because laws are meant to be enforced, enforcement is an outcry for those poor peasants whose livelihood is solely dependent on fish. Lucky, are the fishes in Bhutan but sad is when it reaches to neighboring countries. The fishes are well given space and habitat to migrate and live well, it breeds well with healthy progeny whereby good genetics are maintained for future success. The fishes descend towards the south to India and it’s where they harvest the fishes and sell back to Bhutan.
Why we Import Fishes? What is our Concern?
Bhutanese are well concern of the happiness than the wealth. We buy the imported fish otherwise we could have harvested our own. The reality is we are very much concern with the river ecosystem. Bhutan’s river according to anecdotal information reported to kuensel by Mr. Tshewang Tashi is considered as one of the last remaining habitat of the golden mahseer. But our main concern is, can we guarantee it because in almost all major rivers hydropower stations are being constructed which not only destroy the aquatic habitat but also kill many in dams by turbines. Hydropower is our largest contributor to economy it is considered to be environmental friendly though it has lots of impacts during construction and even after. Economy is important but more than that GNH is in pivotal place. If conservation is to be driven to the top, time has ripe to plan our developmental actives well. People in our communities are being imposed with fines a minimum of Nu. 3000 in times of fishing but ecosystems are largely being disturbed by the projects and the loss of species would be multifold. Bhutan in 2015 has recorded 93 species of fish but expects to be hundreds according to researcher Dr. D.B Gurung of College of Natural Resources. If fish species is to be conserved and fines and penalties are to be enforced I feel it is not necessary to have Hydropower all in our major river system. If it is to have it then, why can’t we let people fish and enjoy our resources rather than people in south exporting our resources back generating their economy. OR, can there be adjustment in fines to minimum so that our people are not that burden. WHAT IS YOUR VIEWS?