“Government must prioritize equity and justice for sustainable management of open water fisheries”

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Bangladesh Youth Environmental Initiative (BYEI), in partnership with EMK Center, organized an Earth Policy Dialogue (EPD) on Rethinking our Approaches to Aquatic Commons: Gaps, Challenges and Way Forward for an Equitable and Just Future .

The dialogue was organized on the eve of World Environment Day 2022 and World Oceans Day 2022, ahead of the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference from June 26 to July 1, reads in a Press release.

BYEI is a nonprofit youth organization working to raise awareness of the ongoing ecological and climate crisis and to inspire environmental action by young people to protect and enhance nature and vital ecosystems.

EPD brings together promising young leaders and leading experts for cross-generational knowledge exchange to develop ideas and solutions for current and frontier environmental challenges.

Dr. Tanvir Hossain Chowdhury, Deputy Head of the Department of Fisheries, along with members of academia and civil society and representatives of think tanks from various institutions and young people, attended the dialogue.

Shamir Shehab, Executive Director of the Bangladesh Youth Environmental Initiative (BYEI), moderated the discussion. The dialogue highlighted some of the key issues related to fisheries management and conservation in the Haor (wetlands), coastal and river basins.

Syed Muntasir Ridwan, CEO of the Catalyzing Sustainable Transformation (CaST) network, shared some of the research findings from a recently conducted study on justice and rights for small-scale artisanal fishers.

The study highlighted the plight of artisanal fishers due to capture by elite fisher associations in haor areas; small-scale fishermen survive on meager earnings amid several crores of business by the elite tenant or locally called haor lords in the wetland.

The government of Bangladesh has a revenue-based management system in wetlands, which leads to poor biological management of fisheries. Also, many malpractices occur in the haor such as using poisonous chemicals to catch fish etc.

Likewise, there are fishing abuses in the coastal and river basins. In the river basins, the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) leases canals for fishing, the elite tenant contracts a small part of the canal but does not allow fishermen to fish in the open water over a much wider stretch of the canal than their contracted area.

Dr. Tanvir Chowdhury highlighted the importance of the fishing ban in the conservation of marine species and the Hilsha, a press release read.

However, some of the dialogue speakers expressed concerns about insufficient social protection during the 65-day ban in marine areas. He also shared that the proliferation of microfilaments (current net) is mainly driven by very small producers, which cannot be placed under the control of law enforcement.

Some of the major recommendations that need to be highlighted for the Government of Bangladesh. First, there is an immediate need to reform the Jalmohol 2009 policy to institute biological conservation measures for fisheries resources.

It is essential that a fixed fee is introduced and administered locally so that fishers in remote areas do not have to undertake the cumbersome and expensive bidding process. This will secure ownership of the haors to the artisanal fishermen. It is also recommended that the DOF adopt an ICT-based GIS system to digitally monitor the actual contract fishing area in the channel and haor. Finally, small-scale fishers must have access to appropriate financing mechanisms to maintain the fishing ban without resorting to negative coping mechanisms such as excessive borrowing and the sale of productive assets.

This dialogue is part of a series of dialogues that BYEI will host in the future to inform the government and the public about the policy reforms needed in natural resource management, biodiversity conservation and the restoration of our ecosystem.

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