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Signing on to the
Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries:
Experiences from the Bay of Bengal

Fishing has supported fishers, consumers and customers of fish alike, including sundry market intermediaries for thousands of years and it can continue to do so for future generations. No reason can be given why it cannot do so unless other excruciating factors beyond Man's control intervene in the meantime.

In one way or another, Man has already managed fisheries wherever fishing is carried out albeit unsuccessfully due to lack of enforcement and compliance. Technological advances have outstripped the resource's regenerative capacity and human population has rapidly increased and food needs have similarly spiraled out of proportion due to the pursuit of materialistic wealth and comfort. There is over consumption of fish everywhere and planners continue to make higher and higher per capital fish consumption projections which in turn add greater pressure on already stressed standing stock (see box)

There is, however, hope that fisheries exploitation can be brought under improved management and therefore can become self-sustaining with greater community stewardship.

The Bay of Bengal Programme (BOBP) is a regional multi-agency project of the Food and Agriculture Organization, working towards improved fisheries management in seven countries around the Bay of Bengal. The very existence of the BOBP was due to concern in the region that fish stocks were being increasingly stressed partly due to growing fisher populations, intensification of fishing methods, habit degradation and pollution. Given the complex multi-species, multi-gear interactive nature of the fisheries simple, top-down fisheries management approaches necessarily had to be re-examined. Instead the BOBP and its counterpart fishery agencies opted for a more participatory, community-based approach, which attempted to bring together stakeholders who through consultations and negotiations would reach agreements on fisheries management plans and implement and monitor them.

With the unanimous signing of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF) in October 1995 at the FAO Conference, the stage was set to not only legitimize a participatory, stakeholder approach but to use the Code to give direction to policy for fisheries development and management. So the BOBP joined a concerted campaign by the FAO to build awareness on and to promote the CCRF, getting countries and fisheries stakeholders to sign on to the Code, regulating themselves for a sustainable and more equitable fisheries’ futures.

In addition to regular fisheries management discourse in BOBP member countries, four meetings have been held in the last two years to progress the operationalization of the Code. A regional workshop in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia in the first quarter of 1997, set the ball rolling by bringing together senior fishery agency officers from the seven member countries to discuss the Precautionary Approach to Fisheries Management and the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and to consider ways and means to incorporate the Code into country-specific fisheries development and management. This meeting had the benefit of advice and guidance from senior FAO staff such as Dr Serge Garcia and other international consultants. An important decision of the meeting was to organize similar workshops at the country level in the member countries.

Two meetings at the national level, one in the Maldives and the other in Bangladesh, were attended not only by senior fishery agency and NGO officials but also by fishery stakeholders and representatives of other concerned government agencies, such as Planning, Finance and External Affairs. Both meetings generated a consensus committing the countries to the Code. The participants in both cases recommended clear actions to progress the implementation of the Code, which included as a first step the translation of the Code into the national languages to ensure widespread dissemination and debate amongst stakeholders (see box).

Another significant meeting though not directly dealing with the Code had important implications to its implementation. Late in 1997 the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock of Bangladesh, in collaboration with BOBP, called a meeting of Members of Parliament from coastal constituencies and senior government administrators and policy makers to discuss the problems and concerns of coastal peoples of Bangladesh. The meeting concluded that there is a need for participatory development of policy and legislation in fisheries development and management to bring together stakeholders into concerted action. It also enthusiastically endorsed the precautionary approach to fisheries management, so action in management will not have to await the availability of scientific information.

In India, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the government has taken the initiative to get the Code translated into Tamil, and the Chief Minister of the State, Mr M. Karunanidhi is expected to formally release the document. The Department of Fisheries, in cooperation with BOBP is taking a travelling roadshow and exhibition to all coastal villages to popularize the Code and begin a debate on its implementation, using traditional and street theatre and public hearings and stakeholder consultations. Looking to the future, the problems of insufficiency of precaution in the management of the fisheries are being overcome by applying the Code more rigorously and widely. The Bay of Bengal Programme is open for further inputs to improve its work from our Website visitors (email attn Programme Coordinator.

MOFL-BOBP-FAO National Workshop on Precautionary Approach to Fisheries Management and the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, 24-25 October 1998, Dhaka, Bangladesh



1. A National Task Force should be established to give direction to and oversee the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF) in Bangladesh. The Task Force should be representative of the stakeholders of the fisheries sector and shall work to a specified time schedule.

2. The Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock (MOFL) should seek financial assistance from the Government of Bangladesh and other donor and technical assistance agencies, as necessary, to facilitate and enable the implementation of the CCRF.

3. MOFL, in cooperation with other concerned government agencies, should arrange for a review of existing and proposed fisheries related policies, legislation, regulations and rules in the context of the CCRF to identify gaps, propose the required changes and facilitate the necessary adjustments to the concerned instruments.

Awareness Campaign and Mobilization of Stakeholders:

4. The CCRF should be immediately translated into Bangla and widely circulated amongst all stakeholders of the fisheries sector.

5. Government fisheries personnel, staff of NGOs working with fishers and university faculties related to fisheries should be provided exposure to the CCRF and trained on the ways and means of disseminating the Code.

6. Public hearings should be held with fisheries stakeholders, starting from the union and thana level and culminating at the national level, to discuss the CCRF and tune it into the specific context of Bangladesh.

7. Awareness should be built on the CCRF amongst all stakeholders of the fisheries sector through a concerted media campaign, including the use of radio, television, theatre, songs, illustrated comic books and newspapers.

8. The study of the CCRF and other national and international instruments pertaining to fisheries development and management should be incorporated into the curricula of under-graduate and graduate programmes dealing with fisheries in universities and other institutions of higher learning in Bangladesh.

Strengthening of Information Systems for Improved Management:

9. A comprehensive and regularly updated database, under the jurisdiction of the Department of Fisheries, covering all fisheries activities in Bangladesh needs to be established, with the task undertaken in a phased manner to cover the sector over a specified time period.

10. All water bodies and the persons/institutions operating them for productive culture of aquatic organisms should be registered with the Department of Fisheries or other competent agency. To involve aquaculturists in conservation and management measures, the registration procedures should require the operators of water bodies used for aquaculture to commit themselves to the practices of responsible fisheries.

11. All fishing units involved in capture fisheries in Bangladesh should be registered with a single authority, either the Department of Fisheries or other competent agency. To involve fishers in conservation and management measures, the registration procedures should require the operators of capture fisheries units to commit themselves to the practices of responsible fisheries.

12. To encourage and motivate aquaculturists and capture fishery operators to register the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock should commit themselves to providing, on a preferential basis, all forms of extension, technical assistance and other welfare and developmental inputs to registered persons and institutions.

Conservation and Management of Fisheries:

13. An Aquaculture Act should be enacted and effectively enforced to regulate aquaculture activities in Bangladesh to promote sustainable and responsible practices.

14. The use of fishing gears should be regulated to promote sustainable and responsible fisheries.

15. MOFL with the cooperation of concerned government agencies should ensure the conservation and protection of aquatic environments through enactment and enforcement of appropriate legislation and regulations to control pollution of water bodies.

16. MOFL with the cooperation of stakeholders should facilitate and enable the establishment of hatcheries to provide necessary seed for the aquaculture sector, to reduce and eventually stop the collection of seed from the wild.

17. MOFL with the cooperation of other concerned government agencies and stakeholders should establish sanctuaries and protected areas and use management measures such as seasonal ban, closed areas and closed seasons, to promote conservation of aquatic resources.

18. Ship-breaking activities should be banned along the coastline of Bangladesh, and if necessary be allowed only in restricted areas after appropriate Environmental Impact Assessments and provision of necessary waste disposal facilities.




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