Hilsa fish would benefit from more policy coordination between India and Bangladesh, suggested experts at the International Workshop on Biodiversity organised by IUCN. As a healthy trans-boundary ecosystem provides great value to both countries, a scientific assessment of biodiversity status, threats and needs is essential, they added.
The day long workshop titled ‘International Workshop on Trans-boundary Biodiversity: Joint Research Dissemination and Policy Dialogue’ was held on 21 March 2012 in Savar, Bangladesh, as part of the research and dialogue process initiated by IUCN through its project Ecosystems for Life: A Bangladesh-India Initiative (E4L). Attended by about 25 participants, the workshop provided an opportunity for the joint research team comprising scientists from Bangladesh and India to present their findings on Hilsa (Tenualosa ilisha) and their identification of policy options for the conservation of the species.
While Hilsa was the focus for the first phase of research within the Initiative’s Biodiversity theme, the workshop also discussed the broader subject of transboundary biodiversity conservation in the Bangladesh-India sub-region. Participants from both countries included government and non-government experts, researchers, journalists and private sector representatives.
With regards to Hilsa, the research team observed that the population is under strong pressure from fisheries. It is proposed that the species would benefit from more coordination between Bangladesh and Indian policy development and implementation on conservation strategies. A particular problem that requires urgent attention is the (illegal) use of extremely small mesh nets and the catch of juvenile Hilsa (“jatka”). The workshop also emphasized the need to involve fishing communities from both sides.
On the wider aspects of transboundary biodiversity conservation, it was proposed that attention should not only go to vulnerable species (e.g. river dolphins (Platanista gangetica) and crocodiles (gharial, Gavialis gangeticus)), but also to the overall ecosystem health. It was suggested to concentrate on topics like the environmental flows (e-flows) that the rivers and associated wetlands need, and pollution and habitat loss, two significant threats to biodiversity. It would also be important to show policymakers the enormous value of a healthy ecosystem.
Ecosystems for Life is using its neutral and facilitating role to bring together stakeholders and to enable collaborative research and dialogue for policy development on trans-boundary water regimes in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna region. The project focuses on five thematic areas - food security, water and poverty, climate change, environmental security, inland navigation and biodiversity conservation. Research was undertaken for each thematic area by Joint Research Teams (JRT) consisting of Bangladeshi and Indian researchers.