Government officials, conservation community and the academia in Bangladesh initiated a dialogue on a national blue economy framework.
The idea of blue economy, it’s relation to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, local context of Bangladesh as a litoral country of the world largest bay, and needs of locally led effort for blue growth were discussed and debated on 2nd June, 2016 at Blue Economy Forum in Dhaka. The forum at the Capital’s BRAC Center Inn was a part of 2nd Marine Conservation and Blue Economy Symposium, organized by Save Our Sea and Organization for Social Orientation in cooperation with Mangroves for the Future, IUCN Bangladesh, Bangladesh Youth Environment Initiative and Riverine People.
In his opening remarks Program Chair Mr. Ishtiaq Uddin Ahmad, Country Representative of IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature noted that, that the idea Blue Economy is the new approach of sustainability, in which the world acknowledged the role of our Ocean as the carbon sink, stabilizer of global climate, water cycle regulator, and the catalyst of economic progress and human well-being. He said, the conservation and development community translated the idea of blue economy ‘into a number of important international policy instrument’ of which the UN Sustainable Development Goals 14 and 15 are very important.
Only a healthy marine ecosystem can offer ecosystem goods and services to increasing population.
-Ishtiaq Uddin Ahmad, Country Representative, IUCN
IUCN Country representative said, ‘as the litoral country of the world’s largest bay- the Bay of Bengal, this new sustainability approach is very much relevant to Bangladesh’s effort in fighting a rising sea level, rapidly changing climate and coping with extreme weather events; and to provide the increasing population the ecosystem goods and services which only a healthy marine ecosystem can offer. Hence, when as a country we are preparing to build a blue economy; we must be very careful about the transformation. We should be very aware so that we can comprehend the idea of blue economy and translate it into our development policies as such. To do that, we need to look back into the formation process of international framework for blue economy’.
The panel included Mr. Md. Yunus Ali, Chief Conservator of Forests, Bangladesh Forest Department; Mr. Nurul Karim, Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forests; Mr. Dipankar Aich, Program Officer, Water Diplomacy Project, IUCN Bangladesh; Mr. Shahad Mahbub Chowdhury, National Coordinator of Mangroves for the Future; Nathan Sage, Climate Change Adaptation Team Leader, Office of Economic Growth, USAID Bangladesh; and Mohammad Arju, Director of Organization for Social Orientation and Founder of Save Our Sea.
The panel discussion was moderated by symposium Convener Mohammad Arju, he presented an Issue Brief titled ‘National Framework for Blue Economy: Where to start’. The brief started with a provisional definition of blue economy where he mentioned that, from the very brief history of development through Rio+20 preparatory process and later under auspices of the UN SDGs, it can be argued that the Blue Economy is an ecological approach towards traditional market economy to overcome the land-locked vision and to recover the declining health of global ocean thorough socially inclusive conservation efforts.
The brief mentioned that, as the ocean is the main regulator of our planet’s climate system, the idea means and includes protection of marine ecosystem and diversity of life, so that the oceans, the lungs of our planet can operate normally, and support livelihoods for the global population with its ecosystem services and benefits. The blue economy is a biodiversity-driven approach which necessarily includes local coastal communities as principal drivers.
Panelist Mr. Dipankar Aich drawn the attention to global blue economy Status. In his presentation he showed that, 350 million jobs are linked to marine fisheries and 90% of fishers live in developing countries. He noted that 40% of World’s economy and needs of 80% of poor are addressed by the biological resources. Mr. Aich gave an elaborate description of blue protection status and stressed on rethinking future water infrastructure. According to him, without improved and sustainable water infrastructure the blue potential will be turned into risks. He argued that, identifying sectors of blue economy on national levels is important to draw investment. For better allocation of national budget and employing resources a national framework on blue economy is much needed, he said.
Convener of the Symposium Mr. Mohammad Arju presented the Issue Brief. (Sitting from the left) Mr. Ishtiaq Uddin Ahmad, Country Representative, IUCN; and Mr. Shahad Mahbub Chowdhury, National Coordinator of Mangroves for the Future.
Mr. Shahad Mahbub Chowdhury’s talk was centered on establishing and managing Marine Protected Areas to help blue growth in the Bay of Bengal region of Bangladesh. He presented the brief from recently published National Framework for Establishing and Managing Marine Protected. Areas (MPAS) in Bangladesh. As fisheries is major blue economy sector, Mr. Chowdhury noted that the MPA framework will help the process of preparing a national blue economy framework.
Mr. Nathan Sage mentioned three main challenges to which the coastal and marine areas of Bangladesh are vulnerable namely, Overfishing, Marine Pollution and Ocean Acidification. In his elaborate talk Mr. Nathan said that Overfishing is in Bangladesh coastal and marine water is just not responsible for declining fish stock but irresponsible fishing practices are killing endangered sea turtles and other marine wildlife too.
Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forest Mr. Md. Nurul Karim emphasized on conservation of marine ecosystems and biodiversity to start the preparation for blue economic growth. In his talk Mr. Karim noted that, in Bangladesh ‘though we don’t have Oceanic features in our marine area like these countries, but we’ve the coastal and estuarine waters of the World’s largest bay; the Bay of Bengal. Just below the world’s largest delta, this is one of the world’s most fertile systems, in-terms of coastal and marine biodiversity’.
Mr. Karim noted that, ‘the relation between healthy coastal and marine ecosystem and potential of blue economy should be understood and reflected in the framework’. He said, ‘if the endangered sea turtles and sharks are protected from illegal fishing nets, the balanced predator-prey relationship will sustain the marine fishery. If we can maintain the marine ecosystem health on global range, hopefully we can mitigate the risk of extreme weather events’. He said, ‘to proceed for any framework on blue economy for Bangladesh, we need to emphasize on protecting this diversity of life from the threats of marine debris, pollution, ocean acidification, and invasive aquatic species. The framework will need to show the way how we can manage the ballast water of ocean going vessel, reduce land based pollution like fertilizers and untreated affluent, debris from coastal tourism facilities’.
Chief Conservator of Forest Mr. Md. Yunus Ali discussed about specific cases of Saint Martin’s, Nijhum Dwip and Sonadia islands where he said huge conflict among various single sectoral approach hinders both conservation and sustainable economy. CCF of the Forest Department also stressed on trans-boundary management in the Bay of Bengal.
Among others, Asia Coordinator of IUCN SSC Cetacean Specialist Group Mr. Brian D. Smith PhD, Program Supervisor of Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project Professor Benazir Ahmed, Professor of Environmental Science Discipline at Khulna University Abdullah Harun Chowdhury PhD, and Save Our Sea’s Director of Research and Development Ms. Alifa Bintha Haque participated in the discussion.
Based on SDGs 14 and 15, scoping study by Save Our Sea and the opinion of the panel, a set of recommendation was presented by symposium Convener Mohammad Arju at the end of the discussion. The recommendation are as follows;
- Once taken into consideration in accordance with local needs, the ocean-related SDGs especially SDG14 and SDG15 have the potential to act like a standard of accountability for Bangladesh’s quest for blue economy.
- Considering present scenario and status of Bangladesh’s coastal and marine ecosystems the priority targets should be; Restoration of marine and coastal ecosystems (such as Chakoria Mangroves, Saint Martin’s Coral Colonies); Science based management for sustainable marine fisheries (limiting trawling and other destructive fishing practices, introducing sea-food certification, diversifying post-harvest technology for value addition etc); Significantly reducing land based marine debris and nutrient pollution (such as incorporating recycling as a core component of waste management, banning micro-beads, establishing ballast water management); and ensuring full access of marine resources to small-scale artisanal fishers.
- By 2020, Bangladesh needs to start the restoration process for degraded marine and coastal ecosystems in appropriate cases, i.e. Chakaria Sundarban and establish sustainable management. To initiate the process Ecosystem Boundary Delineation based on scientific data and subsequent ecosystem based approach should be incorporated in national MPA policies.
- 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. Coordination between government agencies and private sector should be institutionalize for full observation of Bangladesh Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing.
- By 2025, Bangladesh needs to achive institutional capacity and establish infrastructure capable of surveying, 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. Establishing a Monitoring, Surveillance and Control regime for 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 needs to be initiated as an effective process to transfer more access and control to coastal communities over their natural resources.
Upama Aich works for Save Our Sea as a Knowledge Management and Communication (KMC) Volunteer. She studied Zoology at the University of Dhaka.