Explore marine resources
Afifat Khanam Ritika |
April 10, 2022 9:17:21 p.m.
The Bay of Bengal is one of the 64 largest marine ecosystems in the world. As a maritime country, Bangladesh has a larger share of the Bay of Bengal, covering 118,813 km2, which is almost equal to its land area. This marine area is rich in fish production. It is estimated that the production of around 80 lakh MT from the bay is possible, while among the country’s total fish production of 45.03 lakh MT, our bay contributes only around 7.0 lakh MT. There is a wide gap between stock availability and estimated catches.
Statistics show that inland aquaculture production in the country has increased almost sixfold over the past two decades. On the contrary, the production of marine fish remained almost the same during the period. So where is the gap? Why isn’t marine production increasing significantly?
The ocean is an unlimited open space, but it is a difficult task to operate there. The first and foremost requirement for exploring marine resources is the availability of enough data with intensive research coverage to develop ocean resource monetization plans. This is an area where we are far behind many of our peers who have successfully explored and leveraged the blue economy. There are many opportunities to develop the sector through regional and global cooperation as well as national coordination.
The successful demarcation of Bangladesh’s maritime boundary with neighbors in 2012 and 2014 led to the opening of Bangladeshi fishermen‘s access to the Area Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) of the high seas and the term “blue economy”. came to the fore. Many government organizations, NGOs, universities, research institutes and maritime trade centers deal with the country’s sea and marine resources. Not everyone has the same ability to collect the necessary data. Moreover, it has been learned that the cost involved in oceanographic research is quite high, which seems to impede thorough research despite the fact that there are many enthusiastic and capable researchers.
Considering regional cooperation, the priority is to have a common fisheries policy (CFP) for the sustainable management of the ecosystem and its biological resources. It will also protect IUU fishing or overfishing practices. For any shared resource, a common policy is a primary need, and enough data must flow from each country.
For a long-term execution of the PCP development, a regional platform must be developed – first for the sharing of data, knowledge and technologies. Through a common regional platform, the country can share ideas and techniques and even opt for human capacity development. Additionally, the establishment of a blue bond can help facilitate more research and planning for capacity building.
Along with regional cooperation, the country can opt for global cooperation. In this case, raising funds for more projects and sharing knowledge with cutting-edge technology can help the industry thrive. For example, the EU has already developed a standard fisheries policy that we can replicate regionally. It can serve as a model and share its experience to develop the Bay of Bengal regional fisheries policy.
In April 2016, the government of Bangladesh began granting a license to explore tuna and other pelagic fish beyond the 200-meter depth of the bay and in international waters. A total of 17 companies got the longline and purse seine fishing license till April 2018, but none of the companies operated trawlers till the end of 2019. Even the responsible authorities said that the Department of Fisheries (DoF) had made at least half a dozen attempts to send private sector fishermen to fish the high seas, but all of those attempts proved unsuccessful. Reasons for discouraging deep sea fishing are low data availability and survey report for targeted fishing with small and poorly structured fishing vessels.
Any effort is meaningless right now to explore the sea without our proper data and capacity building with advanced technology. To take care of the sea is to dedicate a large-scale investment. It is time to step up proper planning to thrive in the sea fishing industry.
Afifat Khanam Ritika, Research Officer, Bangladesh Maritime Research and Organization Institute (BIMRAD). [email protected]