Bangladesh Youth Environmental Initiative (BYEI), in partnership with the EMK Center, organised 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 organised on the eve of the World Environment Day 2022 and World Oceans Day 2022, ahead of the UN Ocean Conference 2022 from 26 June to 1 July, reads a press release.
BYEI is a youth nonprofit organisation working to raise awareness about the ongoing ecological and climate crisis and inspire youth environmental actions to protect and improve the life-supporting nature and ecosystems.
EPD brings together promising young leaders and leading experts for intergenerational knowledge exchange with the goal is to developing ideas and solutions for ongoing and frontier environmental challenges.
Dr Tanvir Hossain Chowdhury, deputy chief from the Department of Fisheries, along with members of the academia and civil society and think-tank representatives from various institutions and youths, attended the dialogue.
Shamir Shehab, the executive director of the Bangladesh Youth Environmental Initiative (BYEI), has moderated the discussion. The dialogue highlighted some of the key issues related to the management and conserving fisheries in the Haor (wetlands), coastal, and river basins.
Syed Muntasir Ridwan, CEO of the Catalyzing Sustainable Transformation (CaST) Network, shared some of the research insights from a recently conducted study regarding the justice and rights of the small-scale artisanal fisherfolks.
The study highlighted the plight of the artisanal fisherfolks due to elite capture of fisherfolk associations in the haor areas; the small fisherfolks survive on meagre income amid several crores of business by the elite leaseholder or locally called the haor lords in the wetland.
The Government of Bangladesh has a revenue-based management system in the wetlands, leading to poor fisheries' biological management. Moreover, many malpractices occur in the haor such as using toxic chemicals to catch fish, etc.
Similarly, there are fishing malpractices in the coastal and river basins. In the river basins, the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) leases canals for fishing, the elite leaseholder contracts a small portion of the canal but does not allow the fisherfolks to carry out fishing in open water for a much wider span of the canal than their contracted area.
Dr Tanvir Chowdhury highlighted the importance of fishing ban in conserving the marine species and the Hilsha, reads a press release.
However, some of the speakers in the dialogue raised concerns regarding the inadequacy of social protection during the 65-day ban in the marine areas. He also shared that the proliferation of microfilament (current net) is mainly driven by the very small-scale producers, who could not be brought under the purview of legal enforcements.
Some of the key recommendation that needs to highlight for the Government of Bangladesh. First, there is an immediate necessity for reform in the Jalmohol Policy 2009 to institute measures for biological conservation of the fishing resources.
It is essential that a fixed fee is introduced that is administered locally so that the fisherfolks from the remote areas do not have to undertake the cumbersome and expensive bidding process. This will ensure the ownership of the haors to the artisanal fisherfolks. It is also recommended that the DOF adopt an ICT-based GIS system to digitally monitor the actual contracted fishing area in the canal and haor. Finally, the small-scale fisherfolks need to get access to proper financing mechanisms to sustain the fishing ban without resorting to negative coping mechanisms such as excessive borrowing and selling productive assets.
This dialogue is part of a series of dialogues that BYEI will organize in the future to inform the Government and public regarding the necessary policy reforms in natural resource management, biodiversity conservation and restoration of our ecosystem.