Ecosystem Based Sustainable Management of a Marine Protected Area in the Nijhum Dwip Seascape

Bovids in the distance go to drink at a river flows across a flat grassland

Project title: Ecosystem Based Sustainable Management of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Nijhum Dwip Seascape

Location: Nijhum Dwip, Noakhali, Bangladesh

Project Duration: October 2017 – September 2018

Project background: 

The National Framework for Establishing and Managing Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in Bangladesh was published by IUCN in 2015. It was subsequently endorsed by the two most concerned ministries – the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock. Nijhum Dwip Island and its adjacent water area were proposed as one of four main pilot sites for MPA consideration. Capitalising on past experiences, it is the opinion of IUCN that the MPA could play a pivotal role in the conservation of hilsa herring (Tenualosa ilisha) in the Meghna River estuary and the Bay of Bengal. The potential of the MPA was included in ECOFISHBD, a USAID-funded project of the WorldFish Center, with a focus on hilsa as an entry point to ecosystem-wide conservation, especially in and around Nijhum Dwip. Later on, between February 2016 and February 2017, the Mangroves for the Future (MFF) programme of IUCN joined the effort. To follow up on the implementation of the National MPA Framework, IUCN Bangladesh, through a scoping study, intends to initiate an MPA as a tool for ecosystem-based management of critical hilsa breeding and nursery grounds in the Bay of Bengal, targeting the areas in and around Nijhum Dwip as the pilot site. 

The scoping study has thus far delineated the boundary of the potential MPA in the Nijhum Dwip seascape, taking the identified Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) into account. The proposed area of the MPA totals 976km2, of which 8% (82.64km2) is land area, including mangrove forests, and 92% (893.58km2) is aquatic. This ratio of land and water meets the basic criteria for MPA designation, as it is a unique marine ecosystem that supports a number of threatened fishes, birds, mammals and reptiles, and is a breeding and nursing habitats for other critical species such as the hilsa, which is the National Flagship Fish of Bangladesh. IUCN’s scoping study report further prescribed a roadmap towards sustainable MPA management on this island, which includes a 12-year programme that involves the Department of Fisheries and the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock. The programme will be broken up into three different phases:

  • Phase 1 - Preparatory Phase (2 years);
  • Phase 2 - Development Phase (5 years); 
  • Phase 3 - Consolidation Phase (5 years).

The Preparatory Phase will be undertaken in close association with stakeholders, led by the Department of Fisheries and involving local people. It will consist of the designation and management of an MPA in Nijhum Dwip to ensure biodiversity conservation, ecosystem integrity and the resilience of the area.

Objectives of the project: 

To designate and manage an MPA in Nijhum Dwip for the enhancement of biodiversity conservation and maintenance of ecosystem integrity, through the fulfillment of the following basic achievements:

  1. Create governance structures at local and national levels and assign responsibilities for designating and managing the MPA in Nijhum Dwip;
  2.  Improve the ecosystem integrity of the Nijhum Dwip MPA;
  3. Promote activities for improving the socio-economic conditions and resilience of dependent local people; and
  4. Introduce a participatory monitoring mechanism and research facilities for maintaining the ecological integrity, resilience and wise use of Nijhum Dwip's resources.

Donor:  World Fish Center/USAID

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