A two-day conference has begun in the capital to discuss ways of best promoting sustainable development of blue economy among the nations bordering Indian Ocean.
Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) -- an inter-governmental organisation –organised the event at a hotel in the capital on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the third ministerial conference titled “Promoting Sustainable Blue Economy -- making the best use of opportunities from the Indian Ocean” of IORA today (Thursday).
It will conclude with adaptation of Dhaka Declaration which is expected to give a future guideline on opportunities in the area of blue economy in a sustainable way through enhancing regional cooperation.
Rear admiral (retd) Khurshed Alam, secretary (marine affairs unit) at foreign ministry, said “It took us 40 years to establish our rights over the maritime territory. It will take some more time to get the benefit.”
A relatively new term globally, blue economy has been in talks in Bangladesh since the settlement of maritime disputes with Myanmar and India that widened Bangladesh’s access to the waters of the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh has gained the right to fish and explore resources within 118,813 square kilometres of the Bay of Bengal.
Apart from highlighting the government’s focus on blue economy on several occasions at home, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina raised the issue in international forums, including the IORA summit in Jakarta in March 2017.
The fisheries ministry in a research paper in 2015 stressed the need for ocean mapping and research to explore and exploit marine fisheries resources sustainably. It called for a comprehensive policy and an ‘ocean act’ to create a legal framework to secure the marine resource potential, which is yet to see light.
A 25-member high-powered committee was formed to prepare a comprehensive plan on blue economy. The committee has however had no headway in this regard.
A small administrative cell called ‘Blue Economy Cell’ was created under the Energy and Mineral Resources Division of the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources in January 2017. However, the activities of the cell remained confined to holding occasional meetings.
In February this year, the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations jointly organised ‘Bangladesh Blue Economy Dialogue on Fisheries and Mariculture’ in the capital where analysts mentioned that gross value addition of ocean economy of Bangladesh was $6.2 billion in 2014-15 fiscal year.
Speaking at that event, Khurshed Alam, had said potentials of marine fishery, deep sea fishing of tuna, mining, shipping and energy exploration still remained untapped.
He said Bangladesh has the right to fish and explore resources within 118,813 square kilometres of the Bay of Bengal but the country is yet to tap the opportunity as mechanised boats and industrial trawlers can catch fish up to 70 kilometres from the shoreline, out of the total of 660 kilometres available. The rest of the area remains untapped.
Talking to The Business Standard yesterday, he regretted that not a single trawler came until now.
Khurshed Alam requested the country’s private sector, especially the leading business entities, to come forward and invest in exploring the blue economy.
The blue economy is one of the priority sectors of the government and it has taken a $240 million project, with financing from the World Bank, for sustainable development of coastal and marine fisheries.