Bangladesh is endowed with a vast inland waters in the form of rivers, canals, natural and man-made lakes, freshwater marshes, estuaries, brackish water impoundments and floodplains. The potential fish resources resulting from these waters are among the richest in the world. This aquatic diversity is attributed to the habitats created by the Bengal Delta wetlands and the confluence of the Brahmaputra, Ganges and Jamuna rivers that flow from the Himalayan Mountains into the Bay of Bengal.
There are, however, serious concerns surrounding the slow decline in the condition of open water fish stocks which have been negatively impacted through a series of natural and anthropogenic changes. These include disturbances resulting from the large scale water abstraction for irrigation and the construction of water barrages and dams, over-exploitation of stocks, unplanned introduction of exotic species and pollution from industry. Also, natural phenomena, regular flooding etc. cause rivers to continually change course creating complications of soil erosion or over siltation of waterways.
In order to reverse the trend and ensure sustainability of inland fisheries resources, various measures for resource enhancement, conservation and management have been adopted from time to time. A number of resource enhancement projects have been undertaken and the focal point of all these initiatives are: restriction on size at capture for certain periods, on the use of gear and mesh size, and catch of species for specific periods, introduction of closed seasons, restriction of fishing by dewatering or any other destructive method.
The needs of Bangladesh’s poor fisher community to eat what they catch and lack of a legal legislative framework means this situation can only worsen. Hope, however, is offered through several new conservation initiatives including habitat restoration, enhancement of depleting fish stocks in rivers and floodplains, transferring fishing rights to true fishers and establishment of fish sanctuaries at strategic points in rivers and floodplains. This paper reviews the progress of the enhancement and conservation approaches, and attempts to identify the problems and constraints then provides some recommendations in the context of overall developments of inland fisheries of Bangladesh.
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