I’m not a very skilled fisherman as I didn’t grow up right on the lake like the proper Inthar fishermen. I grew up not far from the lake, in Naung Kan, and now I live in Kyaung Tone. I can’t stand on one leg and row very well so what I do is make these little conical fishing baskets and drop them off at the same spots that I’ve been using for the past 28 years. I have about 200 of them in various places all around the lake. I try and check on all of them at least once a day. I have to check them regularly because others do come and steal the fish.
There are too many fishermen now. There used to be just professional fishermen when I started out but now every one fishes to supplement their income. The worst are the ones who use electric shock to kill fish. It kills the small ones too; how will they grow and make more fish? It’s a really bad practice that isn’t being regulated by officials anymore. There is also no taxation system but then again, that’s on the onus of the fisherman to go and register and there are no official measures in place that work anymore. Officials used to be more vigilant about monitoring these things but I don’t see anyone following up or policing these practices effectively.
People are also using strong chemicals in their farming and that’s also affecting fish stocks. I know when the fish are affected because they’ve lost the luster in their scales and their eyes are not clear. I leave the ones that are like that but if even I can’t eat fish like that, who is going to buy them? I never really wanted to do this kind of manual work, but I have to make a living, somehow.
U Ko Maung, 45