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Scientists call for shared hilsa management plan

WT24 Desk

Scientists from Bangladesh, India and Myanmar have called on their countries for a shared plan for sustainably managing the hilsa fishery, agencies report.

They made the call at a two-day meeting that began at Sonargaon Hotel in the capital on Wednesday, according to an IIED press release.

Fisheries and Livestock Minister Mohammad Sayedul Haque inaugurated meeting hosted by the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), the Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) and the UK’s International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

The hilsa fish (locally called illish) is one of Bangladesh’s staple foods and supports the livelihoods of three million people in Bangladesh alone.

But hilsa migrates across the Bay of Bengal and more than 90 percent of the global catch is shared between neighbouring countries Bangladesh, Myanmar and India.

Increased demand across the three countries for hilsa is putting pressure on the species, say scientists at the end of a three-year research programme funded by the UK’s Darwin Initiative that has been looking at ways to conserve this vital fish resource.

The research programme carried out by BCAS, BAU and IIED in partnership with the Department of Fisheries of the Government of Bangladesh shared the results of its findings in a report presented at the two-day meeting here.

“Fisheries resources across the Bay of Bengal are being degraded and overexploited at an alarming rate,” said Dr Essam Yassin Mohammed of the IIED.

“One of the rare examples of both mismanagement and restoration of fisheries using an economic incentive-based mechanism is Bangladesh’s most important single-species fishery: hilsa,” he added.

Sayedul Haque said he believed that the meeting will implant the seed of hope on hilsa fishery to feed the future generation of this region.

He gave assurance that all possible measures will be taken by the government of Bangladesh for collaborative cooperation among Bangladesh, India and Myanmar for sustainable development, conservation and management of hilsa fish.

Dr Khin Maung Soe, former director of Research and Development at the Department of Fisheries of Myanmar, also highlighted that the hilsa fishery in Bangladesh hit bottom rock just shy of 2,500 tonnes in 2015-16 relative to almost 16,000 tonnes in 2006-07.

Dr Soe said a similar approach to that of Bangladesh could perhaps be used to find an alternative model to the traditional command-and-control approach to hilsa management. Only then, he said, “hilsa population can recover and become abundant and affordable for all, not just the wealthy few.”

The participant from the West Bengal State of India, Dr Utpal Bhaumik, reminded the participants of the seminar that hilsa is a commonly shared resource and of the concerted effort to enhance sustainable management of hilsa fishery in the region.

Director General of the Department of Fisheries Dr Arif Syed Azad also spoke at the meeting.

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