Staff Correspondent: A new regional project to improve the sustainability of marine fisheries in the Bay of Bengal was signed yesterday between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Government of Bangladesh.
FAO will implement the project in Bangladesh and six other countries: India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. The project is funded by Global Environment Facility.
The Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem (BOBLME) is one of the largest of its kind, with two thirds in the area of the exclusive economic zones of these countries – the remainder being the high seas.
In Bangladesh, the project will be executed by the Department of Fisheries under the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, with the Forest Department serving as the collaborating agency.
The agreement was assigned by FAO Representative Robert D. Simpson and Sharifa Khan, Secretary of the Economic Relations Division, Ministry of Finance.
Mr. Simpson said: “The Bay of Bengal is an ecologically rich area on which many millions of people depend for the livelihoods, including millions of people in Bangladesh alone. It’s an important asset for national economies as well as food and nutrition security across the many countries around it. As such, international co-operation is crucial and I’m very pleased that Bangladesh is part of this project.”
The combined population of the seven project countries is around 2 000 million, with 450 million estimated as living in the coastal zones. The BOBLME is an area of bountiful biodiversity and of important critical habitats such as mangroves (12 percent of world mangrove resources), coral reefs (8 percent of the world’s coral reefs) and extensive seagrass beds.
The area is also rich in natural resources, including extensive mineral and energy resources; marine living resources that support major fisheries; and forest and land resources. The natural resources are of considerable social and economic importance to the bordering countries. Fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, and shipping are crucial sectors.
There are three priority transboundary concerns: 1.) overexploitation of marine living resources; 2). degradation of critical habitats and 3). pollution and water quality.
This project will contribute to the sustainable management of fisheries, marine living resources and their habitats, contributing to SDG 14, Life Below Water, especially target 7: Increase the economic benefits from sustainable use of marine resources. It will support member countries to deliver the project outcomes through a coordinated partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature; the Bay of Bengal Programme; and the Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Center. Each partner will bring their unique areas of expertise and competence to support delivery.
The project will also help to foster the transfer of knowledge and technology between countries, and build confidence, trust, and transboundary co-operation, hopefully leading to further collaboration.