Saturday, October 12, 2013

Silver Carp in Bangladesh

Fisheries policy in Bangladesh is still trying to get to grips with the major (universal) dilemmas of maximizing benefits from natural resources while, at the same time, ensuring an acceptable degree of equity in distribution of benefits and protecting the ecosystems that support the resources. During the twentieth century Bangladesh adopted one-sided production-oriented policies in the agricultural sector to feed the rapidly growing population. This strategy included increasing fish production, which was in decline mainly as a result of environmental degradation brought about by the expansion of agriculture. The solution was aquaculture development and later the promotion of culture-based fisheries and large scale stocking in the floodplains and beels (lakes) that previously sustained the capture fisheries. Although fish production per se in many cases may have increased as a result of this type of intervention, benefits are not socially and environmentally sustainable. 
Traditional leasing of water bodies is effective but not equitable because the powerful leaseholders control the access; and because the leasing arrangements are of short duration the leaseholders will try to maximize benefits, often at the expense of environment and biodiversity. These strategies have consequently caused serious negative environmental impacts and have further reinforced inequalities between local elites and poorer fishers. Although several attempts have been made to transfer fishing rights to poor fishers through community-based management arrangements,influential people tend to dominate these attempts when there are financial attractions such as subsidies for stocking and the opportunity for easily controlled profits. While stocking of fingerlings, gear bans and seasonal bans on all or some fishing gears were successful technically to conserve and enhance resources it led to exclusion and suffering of poor fishers. Culture-based fisheries have relatively high production, but need strictly enforced closed seasons to allow fish to grow, an activity which excludes poor subsistence fishers.
However, in some places people who participated with the expectations of considerable personal gains ceded when more resilient lower-cost practices such as sanctuaries were adopted. Local equity issues are partly mitigated when poor people are allowed to catch small (non-stocked species) for food. In the floodplains, public stocking has not been sustained as access to these larger open systems is very difficult to control and participants are unable to capture enough benefits or raise funds from the wider community, while landowners tend to take advantage of the situation and catch more of the stocked fish. In smaller, more closed waterbodies, groups of fishers are able to control access and can profit, but the risks and need for capital are high.

This is because commercial aquaculture has emphasized the production of more profitable large fish species such as silver carp but overlooked the nutritional contribution that small fish can make, says Dr. Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted, Senior Nutrition Adviser to CGIAR’s WorldFish Center. Dr. Thilsted, along with Dr. Patrick Dugan (Deputy Director General of WorldFish), came to IFAD headquarters in Rome on Friday, July 12th to discuss the important role which small fish can and must play in aquaculture in the developing world. During their well-attended morning presentation, they also shared some of the latest findings and successes from a relevant IFAD-supported project in Bangladesh.

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