The leading international instrument to incorporate sustainability as the main mantra of development now is the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Total 169 targets under 17 goals are meant to guide the transition of development towards sustainability for next 15 years. Among them goal 14 deals with Ocean, it is titled ‘Conserve and sustainability use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development’.

As a goal making exercise nations and other interest groups came together, discussed new goals and adopted them. It is more or less suitable to act as an ‘accountability standard’ for nations’ journey towards sustainable development. The UN and other inter-governmental bodies will device strategies, facilitate capacity building, mobilize financial mechanisms to help the nations in achieving the targets. Particularly, SDG 14 stressed on increased scientific knowledge and research capacity as well as the transfer of marine technology, which will enhance capacity of countries like Bangladesh in marine science and technology.

Once scrutinized according to local pretext and needs, Ocean SDG can be standard of accountability for Bangladesh’s own quest towards marine conservation and blue economy. On national level, Bangladesh needs to scrutinize the targets to set priorities, to determine, on what targets we need to do more work before we may proceed.

Considering present scenario and status of Bangladesh’s coastal and marine ecosystems the priority targets are; restoring marine and coastal ecosystems, science based management for sustainable marine fisheries, significantly reducing land based marine debris and nutrient pollution, and ensuring full access of marine resources to small-scale artisanal fishers. These are the urgent needs and at the same time arena where Bangladesh still is in need for policy and strategy formation before starting work.

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National Environment Policy, National Fisheries Policy, Coastal Zone Policy, Biosafety Guidelines of Bangladesh and National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS) 2015-2020 should be reshaped according the demand of Ocean SDG. In addition, we need to device appropriate strategies, policy frameworks and National Program of Action (NPoA) regarding Ecosystem Restoration, promoting community based cooperative enterprises in deep sea fishing, Fishing Monitoring and Regulation, Bycatch reduction, Marine Debris and Nutrient reduction, Ballast Water management and prevention of Invasive Aquatic Species.

By 2020, Bangladesh needs to restore marine and coastal ecosystems in appropriate cases and establish sustainable management. Chakoria Sundarban and Coral colonies of St. Martin’s Island are among coastal and marine ecosystems of Bangladesh which are totally degraded and requires restoration works. Due to lack of scientific research and survey, we are not sure about the extent of our marine subsystems which are degraded to the level that they ceased to provide ecosystem service and benefits, hence need restoration. Identifying the subsystem in the bay of Bengal and coastal water and delineating their boundary for further conservation management should be the priority. A NPoA is a good point to start with.

Science based management plan for sustainable marine fisheries is the second important target to achieve by 2020. To proceed, assessment of marine fish stock and determining Maximum Sustainable yield (MSY) by intensive field investigation is the starting point. Management plans should be triggered by proved Stock and MSY. Amount of discarded bycatch specially from Shrimp trawling need to be significantly reduced (at the present the bycatch ratio is 8:1). Bottom Trawling and Shrimp trawling can be considered for extended temporary ban, given the damage to juvenile fish populations, predator loss, marine mammals and turtles, seabed communities and fin-fishes. Marine Fisheries Ordinance and Rules of 1983 need to be amended to meet the demands of improved management. Coordination between government agencies and private sector should be institutionalize for full observation of Bangladesh Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing.

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Protecting reserve in at least 10 percent of marine and coastal area based on scientific information is set to be achieved by 2020. It’s a tricky one. If one can just decide not to consider ‘based on scientific information’ part, protecting the reserve is then just a matter of declaring a reserve and increase the ‘percentage’ in paper, which was done before in Bangladesh. To initiate the process of effective reserve protection Bangladesh needs standardization of protected area categories according to IUCN standard. A policy framework for planning, establishing, managing and evaluating the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) which will include ‘reserve’ as a category needs to be drafted. Instead of depending on anecdotal reference or legends, the whole process of triggering a MPA should be scientific research.

By 2025, Bangladesh needs to significantly reduce marine debris and nutrient pollution. From policy aspect we have an advantage in this regard as we already have our Marine Pollution Ordinance 1977 and NPoA for Reducing Land Based Marine Pollution. To adjust with the demand of SDG 14 we just need amend these instrument to address the requirements of survey, monitoring and removal of marine debris, reducing micro-plastic pollution by consumer products and other industrial waste, vessel based pollution like ballast water and Invasive Aquatic Species.

By 2030 Bangladesh needs to ensure full access of marine resources to small-scale artisanal fishers. Legalization of huge fleets of artisanal fishing boats should be the first priority. An institutional form of coordination between Department Fisheries and Marine Mercantile Department of Department of Shipping to run registration and licensing activity is the first step. In the long term, ways to motivate, facilitate and promote small-scale artisanal fishing cooperatives in deep sea fishing can be an effective process to transfer more access and control to coastal communities over their natural resources.

While SDG is the main mantra of sustainability now, the base-rock of sustainability is ‘going local’. Globally it is evident that management of natural resources is more effective when the responsibility rests on the local community. Participatory research, locally-led management and reviving coastal local economy should be the guiding approaches for policy reorganization.

 

Mohammad Arju is Director of Organization for Social Orientation and Founder of Save Our Sea initiative. He can be reached at arju@saveoursea.social