IUCN Trans-boundary Policy Dialogue Recommends Joint Action by Bangladesh and India for Sustainable Hilsa Fisheries Management

Kolkata, Tuesday, 24 July 2012 (IUCN): After a day of inspiring and engaging discussions, the International Trans-boundary Policy Dialogue on Hilsa Fisheries Management between Bangladesh and India successfully concluded an elaborate set of policy recommendations to conserve the Hilsa fisheries. There was wide agreement by the stakeholders present on the dialogue’s recommendations, which are included in a draft plan of action submitted to the governments in both countries for their consideration and adoption. The recommendations include the proposal for an annual ban on Hilsa fishing during the same period of the year in both countries to protect the juvenile and brood fish. A thorough stock assessment of marine and freshwater Hilsa at regular intervals using a common methodology was identified as an important need. 

Participants at the Trans-boundary Policy Dialogue on Hilsa

Organized by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and the Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute, India (CIFRI) the policy dialogue observed the necessity to maintain an environmental flow of freshwater in estuaries and associated mangrove ecosystems for sustainable Hilsa fisheries. The trans-boundary dialogue is a part of IUCN’s project Ecosystems for Life: A Bangladesh-India Initiative. A range of stakeholders including Mr. Subrata Saha, Minister of State, Department of Fisheries, Government of West Bengal, Md. Mokbul Hossain, Honourable Member of Parliament and Member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for the Ministry of the Fisheries and Livestock, Bangladesh, Mr. Zafar Iqbal Siddique, Member of Parliament and Member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for the Ministry of the Fisheries and Livestock, Bangladesh spoke at the occasion as guest of honour. It was also attended by representatives from fishing communities, researchers, journalists and private sector representatives from Bangladesh and India.

“The Hilsa population in both Bangladesh and India is under immense pressure from the fisheries sector. The species would benefit from coordinated and collective policy development, conservation strategies and joint implementation in both countries”, said Md. Zafar Iqbal Siddique, Member of Parliament, Bangladesh, and Member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for the Ministry of the Fisheries and Livestock, Government of Bangladesh.

A recent study titled ‘The importance of migratory and spawning patterns for the conservation of Hilsa in Bangladesh and India’ was presented at the dialogue which highlighted a set of recommendations to conserve the Hilsa fisheries. Funded by the Ecosystems for Life, the research was conducted 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 river system. The research was conducted by Professor Dewan Ali Ahsan Chairman, Department of Fisheries, Dhaka University, Professor M Niamul Naser, Department of Zoology, Dhaka University, Dr Utpal Bhaumik, Head, Riverine Ecology, Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute, Professor Sugata Hazra, Director, Department of Oceanography, Jadavpur University.

“This is the first time that a wide range of stakeholders from Bangladesh and India have come together to jointly propose science based policy options for both countries to conserve Hilsa,” said Mr Subrata Saha, Minister of State, Department of Fisheries, West Bengal, India. He was addressing the dialogue today as Guest of Honour. “If no changes are made to current fishing practices, Hilsa stocks are at risk of collapse”, he added. He explained that increased protection is now urgently needed to conserve Hilsa. He praised the Ecosystems for Life project for the initiative and called for the need to explore the avenues of mutual cooperation between Bangladesh and India to improve the sustainable productivity of Hilsa.

The joint research suggested that during March-May most of the juveniles (80-150mm) start downstream migration. In Bangladesh there is a restriction on the use of bag and scoop nets for catching Hilsa below 230mm. Implementation of a similar policy in India during these months would facilitate juveniles’ migration to the sea and assist in reaching the original stock levels. Another recommendation is that river dredging is needed at appropriate points along the Padma-Meghna and Hooghly-Bhagirathi river systems to maintain proper a water flow to ensure Hilsa migration.

 “The study and the dialogue have produced a set of policy options that both countries could adopt for sustainable management of Hilsa fisheries. The stakeholders, including the research community, conservationists and representatives from fishing associations, suggested that the recommendations from the study should be discussed at a high level policy forum of both countries. This has now resulted in a firm basis for an effective strategy for Hilsa conservation, which has the endorsement of both policymakers, practitioners and the fishing communities in India and Bangladesh,” said Mr Ganesh Pangare, Head, Water Programme, IUCN Asia.

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.

Ecosystems for Life focuses on five main areas of research: the links between food security, water productivity and poverty alleviation; adaptation to climate change; environmental security convergence of inland navigation and integrated water resources management; and conservation of ecosystems and habitats. These studies are conducted by research institutions and experts from both countries working together as Joint Research Teams (JRT).

This Initiative is being implemented by IUCN Country Offices in Bangladesh and India with support from the Netherlands Minister for Development Cooperation and the IUCN Asia Regional Office.
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Notes to editors

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:

AJM Zobaidur Rahman Soeb, Communications Officer, Ecosystems for Life: A Bangladesh-India Initiative,  IUCN Bangladesh Country Office, Tel: +880 2 989 0395, Mobile: 880 1670 067 268, zobaidur.rahman@iucn.org; Web: http://www.iucne4l.org/

Photos (audio/video material) are available at/from: www.iucn.org/e4l; www.iucne4l.org

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