On Thursday 11 June, at the Westin Dhaka hotel, officials from the Department of Fisheries welcomed researchers, practitioners and representatives from the Government of Bangladesh, including the Honourable Minister of Fisheries and Livestock, Mr Muhammed Sayedul Hoque, and the Secretary of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Dr Shelina Afroza, to discuss proposals for a new Hilsa Conservation Trust Fund that aims to relieve the financial burden from the government and help bridge the finance gap.
The important meeting brought in learnings from a review of conservation trust funds from across the world, and extensively discussed the background document that sets out the business case, and the memorandum and articles of association of the proposed trust fund, as well as defining the key milestones from proposal to implementation stages.
This is part of the effort being made by the three-year Darwin Initiative funded research project between the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), the Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) and the Department of Fisheries to make recommendations for ways to enhance the effectiveness of the incentive-based fisheries management.
The Honourable Minister said: “I express my gratitude to the Darwin-Hilsa project for taking this initiative. Establishment of Hilsa Conservation Trust Fund is very timely when our hilsa fishery is under pressure of exploitation due to increase of population and climate change effects.”
Hilsa (Tenualosa ilisha) is one of the most important single-species fisheries in the Bay of Bengal. More than half a million people depend on it for their livelihood and 250 million Bengali people depend on it for nutrition.
But in the face of over-exploitation, scientists and policymakers feared a collapse of the fish stock in the near future, which led the Bangladeshi government to declare five sites in the fishing grounds as ‘hilsa sanctuaries’, where fishing is banned during the breeding season. To compensate for lost earnings, the government provides ‘affected’ fisher communities, which total more than 200,000 households, with food and alternative income-generating activities.
Dr Essam Yassin Mohammed, a senior researcher with IIED said: “The Government of Bangladesh is rare in that it recognised the impact of restricted fishing activities on fisher households and moved to compensate them. The Government’s actions are unique in that they have now been running this compensation without any external assistance for over ten years, for which they should be commended.”
The Honourable Minister added: “I hope that the workshop would discuss the Hilsa Conservation Trust Fund documents critically and recommend appropriate measures for improvement. Following this workshop, a revised draft document of the trust fund will be submitted to the Department of Fisheries for review and submit to the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock for further action. I give you assurance that all possible measures will be taken by the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock for establishment of the Hilsa Conservation Trust Fund in Bangladesh for sustainable development, conservation and management of our national fish.”
In another development on June 3 to 4, Dr Syed Arif Azad, Director General of the Department of Fisheries flew to Brussels to speak on the importance of the Darwin-Hilsa project learnings* for Bangladesh and other country governments, at the European Development Days Forum, alongside researchers from IIED and BAU.
Dr Azad said: “It was important for the Department of Fisheries to share Bangladesh’s unique learnings on fisheries management. We welcome the learnings from this research project and look forward to using them to make the Government scheme even more effective in the future.”
The project team also officially submitted both the background document and the memorandum and articles of association of the Hilsa Conservation Trust Fund.
Dr Azad said: “We will take these recommendations seriously and I hope they will enable us to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the incentive-based scheme for hilsa management. We will continue to work with IIED and other development partners to pursue the ratification process of the proposed Hilsa Conservation Trust Fund. We hope to see it up and running.”
About the organizers:
Bangladesh Agricultural University: Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) is the premier seat of higher agricultural education and research in the country. The university was established as the nation’s only university of its kind in session 1961-62 on the basis of recommendations made by the Commission of National Education and the Food and Agriculture Commission in 1959. The university formally came into existence on 2 September 1961. The missions of Bangladesh Agricultural University have been to develop the art and science of agriculture for the wellbeing of mankind, and to educate agriculturists of high standards of scientific, managerial and professional competence in harmony with the environment, and to share knowledge and skills with world partners.
Bangladesh Center for Advanced Studies: The Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS) is an independent, non-profit, non-government, policy, research and implementation institute working on Sustainable Development (SD) at local, national, regional and global levels. It was established in 1986 and over 25 years and has grown to become a leading research institute in the non-government sector in Bangladesh and South Asia.
IIED: The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is an independent, non-profit research institute. Set up in 1971 and based in London, IIED provides expertise and leadership in researching and achieving sustainable development.