Creating awareness among consumers has become a necessity to conserve Hilsa, an iconic fish in the Bengal Delta. Tackling demand for Hilsa is as critical as implementing enforcements to curb declining catch of the fish during the spawning and breeding seasons. This was discussed at a day-long consultation on ‘Hilsa Conservation Action’ organized by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) under its project Ecosystems for Life: A Bangladesh-India Initiative on 27 June 2013 at the Middleton Chambers in Kolkata, India. Given the migratory nature of Hilsa, the participants suggested that governments of India and Bangladesh must come together to save this fish.
Ecosystems for Life in 2011 conducted a research by a trans-boundary joint research team following an agreed common methodology that focused on the migration route of Hilsa with emphasis on the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) basin. The findings of the research were presented formally to policy makers from both countries in 2012. As a next step Ecosystems for Life is planning for a multi-pronged communication plan to complement the momentum gained over the last few months through governments’ positive steps, particularly in West Bengal, India.
“The Government of West Bengal issued a gazette notification on April 09, 2013 attempting to implement restriction and regulation of catching of Hilsa to facilitate spawning and breeding of the fish. Now is the time to come together, share experiences and learn from each other to save the prized fish”, said Mr B. C. Saha, Director, Department of Fisheries, Government of West Bengal. He attended the consultation today as one of the participants. Among others present included Prof Amalesh Choudhury, Former Head of Department of Marine Science, Calcutta University, Ms Meena Gupta, Former Secretary, MoEF, Government of India and member of the advisory committee to the project, Mr A. B. M. Jahid Habib, Project Director, Jatka (Juvenile Hilsa) Conservation Project, Department of Fisheries, Government of Bangladesh, Prof Jayanta Bandyopadhyay, Former Head, Centre for Development and Environment Policy, IIM, Kolkata, Prof Sugata Hazra, Director, School of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University, Prof Niamul Naser, Department of Zoology, Dhaka University and representatives from fishermen associations, civil society and media. After a day of inspiring and engaging discussions, the consultation came up with some key messages for specific target audiences to roll out a communication plan. IUCN will explore collaboration with other like-minded agencies to pilot the plan.
“Our study and the consultations so far suggest the need for an effective communication strategy for Hilsa conservation”, said Dr Brian James Furze, Project Director, Ecosystems for Life. “We will work with governments and other agencies to support and facilitate knowledge sharing on Hilsa Conservation”, he added.
Ecosystems for Life: A Bangladesh-India Initiative is a civil society led multi-stakeholder dialogue process to promote better understanding of the management of natural resources in the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna region. The project works to develop a shared vision and understanding of food, livelihood and water security issues through collaborative research and studies, creation of a knowledge hub, developing research-based policy options and enhancing the capacity of civil society stakeholders to participate in the management of natural resources.
This Initiative is being implemented by IUCN Country Offices in India and Bangladesh with support from the Netherlands Minister for Development Cooperation and the IUCN Asia Regional Office.