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Md. Nasimddin Ahmed
Project Director, Second Aquaculture Development Project, Department of Fisheries, Matshya Bhaban, Ramna, Dhaka.
Md. Mokammel Hossain
Deputy Director, Third Fisheries Project, Department of Fisheries, Matshya Bhaban, Ramna, Dhaka.


- Fisheries are important for the supply of animal protein, employment-generation, foreign exchange earnings and economic growth of Bangladesh.

- Inland open water capture fisheries and the marine waters of the Bay of Bengal contribute the lion's share of the total fish production in Bangladesh. Better biological management techniques in these waters, stricter implementation of all rules, ordinances etc. to ensure natural productivity, need to establish sanctuaries and Jatka conservation, are all necessary.

- The present pyramid structure, of the Department of Fisheries (DOF) needs to be rectified and the frustration of staff and field workers have to be removed.

- The implementation of the New Fisheries Management Policy (NFMP) can safeguard the interests of the fisherfolk, but problems connected with the ownership of waterbodies need to be addressed. The fishing community in general is illiterate and poor, its social status low. Attention should be given to develop them.

- Many agencies, like the Department of Fisheries, Fisheries Research Institute, Fisheries Development Corporation, Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council, Water Development Board and NGO's, are working for the development of the fisheries sector. Co-operation and co-ordination among these organizations is essential.

- The Fish Act, the Tank Improvement Act, the Marine Ordinance etc. all need to be revised.


The blessings of a subtropical climate, a prolonged rainy season, its topography, the flow of the Ganges, Padma and Brahmaputra rivers which cause floods during the monsoon, all facilitate the development of a unique fisheries environment in Bangladesh. Vast seasonal water areas, rivers and canals, millions of ponds (dhigis), haors, baors etc. are all potential sources of inland freshwater fish production. A large part of the coastal zone is suitable for shrimp culture. The marine waters of the country in the Bay of Bengal also contribute much to the total harvest.

The fisheries sector provides 80 per cent of the protein for Bangladesh's population, contributes 10 per cent of the foreign exchange earnings, generates employment for 12 per cent of the total working population and contributes 4.6 per cent to the GDP. Growth in the fisheries sector is 6.6 per cent. From these statistics the importance of fisheries in Bangladesh can easily be understood. However, compared to its water area, Bangladesh's production is not satisfactory.

Openwater is the greatest source of Bangladesh's fish supply, but production has declined a lot in this area for many reasons. So it is high time to take appropriate measures to develop the fishing community directly related with the Openwater fishery and improve the agencies responsible for the management of openwaters and the implementation of the legal and regulatory measures in these waters. The existing linkages and working relationships between and among the various government and nongovernment organizations involved in fisheries education, research, training and extension need to be reviewed in order to develop an appropriate model for effective co-operation and co-ordination for development. Effective co-ordination is at present meagre.

In this paper the following aspects of the legal, regulatory and institutional framework for fisheries and fishing communities development and management are discussed:

- The adequacy of fisheries institutions to implement the regulatory acts and ordinances and the need for their strengthening.

- Regulatory measures provided in the New Fisheries Management Policy (NFMP), the problems with them and the need. to modify the policy.

- The adequacy of the legal and institutional set-up for the transfer of large waterbodies to the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock.

- The need for conservation of juveniles (of Hilsa, Galda, carps etc.), the establishment of sanctuaries and the sustainability of fisheries resources.

- The fisherfolk, their problems and the means to improve their livelihood.

- Increased need for enforcing fisheries resources conservation acts and ordinances.

- The problems and constraints in coastal and industrial fisheries in relation to the present legal and institutional framework, with particular reference to the Fisheries Ordinance 1983, and the need to revise the ordinance.

- Recommendations on how to streamline the present legal and institutional framework to suit local realities.


2.1 The history of the Department of Fisheries
2.2 The emerging significance of the DOF
2.3 Present structure of DOF
2.4 Existing problems and constraints
2.5 Proposed mandate of DoF
2.6 Proposed structure of DoF
2.7 Involvement of Government of Bangladesh agencies in administration, management and development of fisheries

2.1 The history of the Department of Fisheries

The Department of Fisheries was established in 1908 under the then Province of Bengal. This Department merged with the Department of Agriculture in 1910. It was again transformed, into a separate entity, in 1917. Due to some administrative problems, the Director of the Department of Agriculture acted as the officiating Director of the Department of Fisheries in 1920. The Department was entrusted with the task of application of the Indian Fisheries Act of 1897 for the protection of brood and immature fish and the conservation of resources. Its function was limited to districts and divisions.

Due to lack of adequate financial support and technical manpower, the Bengal Retrenchment Committee recommended the Department's abolition and this was done in 1923. The Department was again revived in 1942 to meet the demand for increased fish production during World War II.

After the partition of India in 1947, the organization was renamed the Directorate of Fisheries and its headquarters was shifted from Calcutta to Comilla. During its initial years, the Directorate of Fisheries mainly looked after fish marketing and fishermen's welfare. The East Bengal Protection and Conservation of Fish Act was prepared by the Directorate and was passed in 1950 by the then Provincial Legislature, with a view to conserving young and brood stocks of specific species of fish and to restrict certain fishing activities. The Directorate hired some ponds and managed nursery activities on a smallscale, growing fry and fingerlings of major carps for distribution among private fish farmers. The Directorate was bifurcated into the Research and Extension wings in 1954 and its headquarters was shifted to the secretariat in Dhaka. Fish seed multiplication farms and a fishery research and training complex came into operation in 1960-70. The headquarters was transferred to a rented building at Kakrail, Dhaka, in 1971.

After the Independence of Bangladesh in 1971, the marine wing was amalgamated with the Directorate and renamed the Department of Fisheries. At the outset, much of its activities remained centered on the development, promotion and expansion of fish culture in closed waterbodies, such as ponds and ox-bow lakes.

In order to intensify fish culture in derelict tanks, the Tank Improvement Act of 1939 (as amended) was further amended to allow requisition of derelict tanks and allocate them to people interested in fish culture. In order to improve biological management in government-owned fisheries, the department started pilot-scale management of a few fisheries with fishermen co-operative societies on a catch-sharing basis, providing for licensing of individual members of those co-operatives. In 1986, the headquarters of the Department was moved to Matshya Bhaban, its own premises. The same year, the New Fisheries Management Policy (NFMP) was formulated with a view to safeguard the interests of the fishermen.

2.2 The emerging significance of the DOF

The history of the creation, abolition, revival, transfer, and reconstitution of the DOF indicates the ambivalence that existed for nearly 90 years on the role and significance of the fisheries sector in the perceptions of the governments of those times. The original intention of the government was to involve itself in the fisheries sector to explore the possibility of collecting revenue from the sector. Gradually, the consciousness emerged that the real significance of the fisheries sector was that it was the largest animal protein source for the entire population and that it had tremendous potential to contribute to social uplift and development. The Government then recognized the fisheries sector not merely as a revenue source, but as a source of protein supply and employment and began to consider it a public responsibility to manage and develop it. This resulted in entrusting the DoF with the following responsibilities:

- Advising the government on the extended management of the inland and marine fisheries resources and other aquatic animals of economic significance.

- Advising the government on the environmental conservation, development and protection of waterbodies.

- Assisting the line ministry in formulating policies on the management and development of fisheries resources and on fish-related matters.

- Surveying and making stock assessments of the existing fisheries resources.

- Identifying the present condition and productivity of marine waterbodies and monitoring the catch of the trawler fleet.

- Taking steps for the management and conservation of the inland and marine fisheries resources.

- Implementing the New Fisheries Management Policy adopted in 1986.

- Initiating the formulation of fisheries-related acts, and ensuring the enforcement of fisheries acts, ordinances, and regulations in this respect.

- Formulating and implementing development projects for fish culture, fisheries resources management, fish processing and utilization, and other fisheries development-related activities.

- Monitoring, evaluating, analyzing, and coordinating fisheries development-related activities. Coordinating fisheries-related inter-organizational activities with other institutions and bodies engaged in this sector, like the Fisheries Research Institute, Bangladesh Fisheries Development Corporation, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, Rural Development Board, Bangladesh Water Development Board, Export Promotion Bureau, Department of Environment Control and Krishi Bank.

- Dissemination of improved fish cultivation techniques.

- Runing fish seed multiplication farms and fish hatcheries as demonstration units and supplying high-quality indigenous and exotic fish fry and fingerlings to fish farmers. Also imparting training to farmers through these farms.

- Demonstrating and extending improved and appropriate technology for shrimp culture through the shrimp farms and shrimp hatcheries,

- Arranging for institutional credit for fish farmers, shrimp cultivators, fishermen and fish traders.

- Organizing a fisheries extension service to transfer technology on fish farming, fish harvesting, fish preservation and fisheries management to the fisherfolk.

- Arranging in-service training for officers, staff, and field level extension workers of the DOF.

- Arranging training for the extension workers of various private organizations, landless peasants, unemployed youth, fish farmers, and fisherfolk.

- Enforcing quality control measures and arranging for issue of health certificates for exportable fish and fish products.

- Arranging for the Thana Fishery Officers to participate in fisheries-related development and extension activities at the thana level. At the same time, ensuring implementation of Acts, Ordinances etc. by them.

- Taking steps for the socioeconomic development of the fisherfolk community.

- Liaising with fisheries-related regional and international organizations.

- Coordinating investments in the various sectors of the fisheries industry, such as trawling and fish processing.

2.3 Present structure of DOF

The existing organizational structure of the DOF is based on the findings and recommendations of the Matin Committee. The DOF is headed by the Director-General, who is supported by two Directors: one for marine fisheries and one for inland fisheries. The Director, Marine, is posted in Chittagong, and takes care of all functions related to marine survey, enforcement of laws and licensing etc. The Director, Inland, is located at Headquarters and is responsible for administration and finance, training, fish culture, extension activities and management of field offices. He also looks after completed field-based projects now included in the revenue budget.

There are three Principal Scientific Officers (PSO): one in the Raipur Hatchery and Training Institute, one for FRSS and another for QC. The posts of Director and PSO are equivalent.

The field level set-up consists of deputy directors in charge of four Divisions, District Fishery Officers in charge of 64 districts, and 456 Thana Fishery Officers.

The total staff of the DOF under the revenue budget is 3653, of which the number of Class I posts is 731, Class II post is 74, Class III is 1966 and Class IV is 882. Under the development head, the number of staff in Class I are 209 (89 vacant). Class II 51 (4 vacant), Class III 743 (70 vacant) and Class IV 169 (31 vacant).

Figure 1. Organization of the Department of Fisheries

A Thana Fishery Officer (T.F.O.) is supposed to render extension service. At the same time, he is responsible for implementation of all rules, Acts, Ordinances etc. The nature of his two main responsibilities are conflicting!

2.4 Existing problems and constraints

Shortage of Manpower: The TFO has been entrusted with two conflicting assignments, viz. extension and implementation of regulatory measures. These should be done by separate officers at the thana level. There is, in each thana, on an average, 327 ha of closed area and 8798 ha of open water. The average population in each thana is about 20,000 persons. This work is too much for one TFO and extra technical manpower is therefore needed at this lower level. In the district level too there is only one officer and he is mainly responsible for supervision and co-ordination. In his absence, there is no one in his office to respond to requests for information and extension.

Fund constraints: On an average Tk. 5000 are given annually to one TFO to cover all his expenses. He cannot be expected to undertake much extension work and implement the rules with such meagre funding.

Infrastructure constraints: In many cases, a DFO or TFO does not have a vehicle or equipment. This limits his efficiency in respect of fishery extension and conservation work.

Lack of support: The Tank Improvement Act and other ordinances are supposed to be implemented by the TFO with the help of the TNO, Magistrate or Police. But it seems that such support is not mandatory. So TFOs in most cases are helpless. Everybody's work is actually nobody's work.

Inadequate trainers: To increase the efficiency of officers, frequent training is needed. There is little planned.

Frustrated staff: The Matin Committee has blocked the future of all entry level officers. New entry level officers are suffering from frustration. Further, recruitment rules have not been finalized nor have the services of many officers been regularized. There are severe problems in the field as a consequence.

Lack of information: The information system of the DoF is poor. An effective system should be developed.

Conflicting authorities: The waterbodies belong to the Land Ministry, while the DoF is in charge of their management. This system does not work. Waterbodies should be transferred to the DoF. In that case, responsibility can be fixed.

Not the right staff: At present, many of the staff in the Department of Fisheries are biologists. But there are fields in the sector where Economists, Sociologists, Environmentalists and Engineers are also needed. Recruitment policies need to be reviewed.

In the marine sector, the situation is even worse. Lack of manpower, facilities and funds are a severe problem. An assessment of the requirements and implementation of rules is urgently needed.

The problems cited above are acute. Therefore, these problems need to be resolved immediately.

2.5 Proposed mandate of DoF

The DoF should be responsible for extension, training, management and conservation, quality control of exports, formulation and implementation of development projects, and collection of statistics. The DoF should also be entrusted with the task of environmental impact analysis and overall socioeconomic improvement of the fishing communities. The NFMP should be extended everywhere and proper systems should be developed.

2.6 Proposed structure of DoF

The suggested organizational structure of the DoF would consist of six functional Directorates:

- Inland fisheries.
- Marine fisheries.
- Administration and finance.
- Planning and development.
- Extension and training.
- Quality control.

Each directorate would be headed by a Director or equivalent. All the directorates would function under the overall control and supervision of the Director-General, with maximum operational freedom within the house, but maintaining close and harmonious relationships with each other and with the field set-up.

The Inland and Marine Directorates would be responsible for operations and development relating to fisheries management, conservation, input supply and coordination in their respective areas. The Administration and Finance Directorate would control personnel, finance and support services of other directorates. The Planning and Development Directorate would plan for all other directorates, receive inputs in this connection (e.g. statistics, data and information) and monitor the development projects. The Extension and Training Directorate would be responsible for motivation, training etc.

The field set-up of the inland fisheries directorate would include six Regional Fisheries Offices, 64 District Fisheries Offices, 456 Thana Fisheries Offices and 81 demonstration farms, 5 fisheries extension and training centers as well a Fisheries Training Institute (Chandpur) and a Training Academy in Dhaka in addition to the existing Fisheries Development and Training Institute in Raipur, which at present, is under the direct charge of the Director-General.

In order to meet the requirements of foreign buyers, the concept of a quality control laboratory for pre-shipment inspection and microbiological examination of exportable fish and fisheries products was first considered in 1973. Preliminary work on the establishment of fish inspection and quality control was started in 1976-77 in a hired house at Khulna and in the CGO building Agrabad, Chittagong, with the appointment of staff, including Deputy Directors, and purchase of equipment.

The Government decided in 1979 to upgrade the existing inspection facilities and quality control of exportable fishery products to a level of professionalism that would ensure international recognition. The project was approved in 1983 and completed in June 1985 with the appointment of Inspectors, Deputy Directors and a Project Director (PSO) to coordinate the work of the various units. Manpower was increased from 24 to 55.

The Government also promulgated the Fish Inspection and Quality Control Ordinance on 10 May, 1983 and it came into force on 15 August, 1983.

By this time, the Government had set-up a microbiological laboratory at Matshya Bhaban, but the ancillary facilities of this laboratory are not adequate to meet the present requirements. The Government quality control structure alone cannot fully regulate fishery products. There should be self-regulatory measures in each industry. Each fish processing plant should have the ancillary facilities for quality control.

The EEC and US FDA (Food & Drug Administration) are pressing the Government to introduce the HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) concept in Bangladesh before the end of 1995. If the country fails to introduce this system at all levels of production, distribution, storage and sale of fish and fisheries products, there is a possibility of losing its present international market. At present, the quality of fish is controlled when it comes for processing, but appropriate care is not taken immediately after harvest. As a result, the quality of the fish is degraded in many cases. With this in view, service centre facilities, transport and ice facilities and skilled manpower at all levels are required.

In order to overcome these problems, the following are suggested:

- Modernization of the quality control laboratory through procurement of equipment, chemicals and transport.

- Ensuring skilled manpower development.

- Creation of units for inspection of the quality of the ice used and the condition of the fish at landing and selling points, and at processing plants.

- Transferring of modern technology to the fish processors in order to develop a system of self-regulation in their plants.

- Urgent training on HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) for official inspectors of the Department of Fisheries and the private sectors.

2.7 Involvement of Government of Bangladesh agencies in administration, management and development of fisheries




Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock (MFL)

Department of Fisheries (DoF)

Administration, management, and development; extension and training; conservation of resources; enforcement of fishery laws

Bangladesh Fisheries Development Corporation (BFDC)

Exploitation and marketing

Fisheries Research Institute (FRI)

Research; Training and extension

Ministry of Land (ML)

Land Administration Board (Land Reforms Division)

Leasing of public waterbodies above 20 acres

Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives (LGRDC)

Bangladesh Rural Development Board (BRDB)

Fisheries component of integrated rural development

Registrar of Co-operative Societies

Registration and supervision of fishermen's co-operative societies

Bangladesh National Fishermen's Co-operative Societies (BJMSS)

Operation of ice-plants, Import of fishing gear

Co-operative Banks

Financing of fishermen's co-operatives

District Parishad

Management of waterbodies above 20 acres

Thana Parishad

Management of closed waterbodies below 20 but above 3 acres

Union Parishad

Management of waterbodies below 3 acres, and with rent earlier fixed at Tk. 5000 (as of February 1987)

Ministry of Irrigation, Water Development and Flood Control (MIWDFC)

Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB)

Leasing of reservoir and irrigation channels

Ministry of Forest and Environment (MFE)

Forest Department (FD)

Exploitation and control of Sundarban-based fisheries loan

Ministry of Finance (MF)

Bangladesh Krishi Bank (BKB)

Administration of fisheries loan

Commercial banks

Administration of fisheries loan

Economic Relations Department (ERD)

Administration and co-ordination of foreign assistance for fisheries development

Ministry of Planning

Planning Commission (Planning)

Project evaluation and approval

Ministry of Shipping

Mercantile Marine Department

Registration of fishing boats

Ministry of Transport and Communication (BT&C)

Bangladesh Railway (BR)

Leasing of reservoirs and canals on railway land

Ministry of Defense (MD)

Bangladesh Navy (BN)

Leasing of waterbodies in the naval area; Patrolling Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to prevent intrusion of foreign fishing vessels

Ministry of Commerce (MC)

Department of Commerce

Leasing of fish processing plants

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)

EEZ of Bangladesh

Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) negotiations

Ministry of Education

Bangladesh Agricultural University

Higher fisheries education; Extension and training

Other Universities

Fisheries-related education

NGO Affairs Bureau

Various non-government organizations

Development activities in the fisheries sector by arrangement with other agencies

Source. Kutty and Haque 1991


3.1 Suggestions

In Bangladesh, there has traditionally been no proper fisheries management system for the development of the jalmahals. These jalmahals are leased out by Ministry of Land (ML) just to collect revenue. The ownership of jalmahals by the ML severely weakens the capacity of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock (MOFL) to carry out its mandate of scientifically managing, protecting and conserving the inland fisheries resources.

In 1987, a New Fisheries Management Policy (NFMP) was initiated by MOFL to deliver the maximum benefits from fishing to genuine fishermen and to introduce management systems to ensure long-term sustainability of fisheries resources. However, out of over 10,000 registered jalmahals, only 300 have so far been transferred from the ML to the MOFL. Under the NFMP, access to fishing rights should be given only to genuine fishermen, through a process of selection and issuance of renewable fishing licenses. Exploitation by middlemen would be largely eliminated, enabling the fishermen to own their own produce and market it themselves. However, the annual earnings of a fisher household are only about TK 400 on an average, well below the national average. Such fishermen cannot afford high licence fees, only middlemen or moneylenders can, come into operation even though the Krishi Bank has a credit window to support fishermen after the NFMP.

The transfer of most large bodies of water to the MOFL has not been done by the ML. A system has also still not been developed to monitor waterbodies in respect of licence fees, licence holders, types of gear used, etc. It is important to strengthen fishermen's organizations to enable them to manage the fisheries, conserve resources and determine how the benefits should be distributed within the village on an equity basis.

Very recently, during the Fish Fortnight 1995, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh declared the abolition of the leasing of flowing waterbodies.

3.1 Suggestions

- The transfer of all waterbodies to the MOFL should be accelerated and be consistent with the implementation of NFMP.

- The implementation of the NFMP should be closely monitored in respect of licence fees, licence holders, production, types of gear used, marketing and credit facilities, identification of problems facing licence holders regarding NFMP (GOB, FF).

- Certified fishermen's groups should receive top priority in being given the waterbodies. All khas waterbodies should be demarcated and brought under the control of fishermen's groups to ensure a successful conservation policy.

- The annual license fee should be minimal and should not act as a barrier to fishing as an occupation.

- NGOs should be encouraged to strengthen fishermen's organizations so that the latter may actively participate in the licensing system.

- Fishermen's organizations should be strengthened to enable them to manage fisheries, conserve resources and determine how the benefits should be distributed within the village on an equitable basis.

- The present dual management system of jalmahals by the ML and MOFL should be dropped and the MOFL given full responsibility.

- The Management policy for jalmahals should be biological management-oriented rather than revenue oriented.

- Community-based management concepts should be promoted with management measures being enforced in a cost-effective manner.

- All licence-holders should be trained. Instead of licensing by TNO, DC, TFO, DFO, this responsibility should be given to DOF alone.


4.1 Conservation of fish sanctuaries
4.2 Conservation of Jatka (Hilsa/juveniles)

4.1 Conservation of fish sanctuaries

Sanctuaries are best located in least disturbed natural environments that harbour the maximum species diversity in a balanced natural equilibrium and which provide good opportunities for survival and reproduction of the species. Finding such waterbodies is difficult. Moreover, the management aspects of surveillance and the control of poaching influence the choice of sanctuary locations to those areas where they are most cost-effective and least disrupted by human activities Study is needed to identify possible sites by assessing the richness of aquatic fauna, species diversity and ecology. Feasibility assessments, are necessary when establishing fish bioreserves.

The immediate objectives are to:

- Identify the location of all major critical brood stock habitats and breeding sites.

- Devise appropriate structural measures to reduce fishing effort to an acceptable level in fish sanctuaries, or eliminate it entirely if feasible.

- Educate the local fishing community on the need for establishment of fish sanctuaries, supported by DOF surveillance, and

- Formulate an operational plan and implement it.

To achieve the objective of the Fish Sanctuaries Programme, the DoF would need to establish a planning unit to carry out the necessary field studies to identify all localities that need to be given sanctuary status. This could best be done in beels by installing sanctuary katha. Fishermen groups should be responsible for looking after sanctuaries so that they will be the real beneficiaries of the scheme. Critical stretches of the mainstreams of rivers their and tributaries, which are used as spawning habitat, should be protected. Large rivers, such as the Surma, Kushiyara, Kangsa and Baula, are important habitat for the most important major carp, large Catfish and other species. An education campaign should be carried out in the fishing villages to educate fishermen on the need, purpose and benefits to be expected from the establishment and protection of sanctuaries. Their support and participation should be obtained through this process.

4.2 Conservation of Jatka (Hilsa/juveniles)

Young Hilsa are part of the catch of several artisanal gear. The intensity of jatka fishing varies, depending on the abundance of young Hilsa. Indiscriminate catch of juveniles is indeed one of the serious constraints to development and management of the Hilsa fishery.

The immediate needs are to:

- Establish the relationship between breeding run abundance and juvenile populations;

- Establish, through field surveys, the downstream migration patterns of juvenile Hilsa (jatka) and the characteristics and level of mortality they suffer;

- Educate the local fishing community on the need to conserve juveniles and on the adverse effects of jatka fishing on the Hilsa fishery;

- Support community-based participation in jatka conservation with DoF enforcement capability, based on a monitoring, control and surveillance programme for all major rivers and important secondary rivers during the jatka season.

An education programme needs to be carried out to educate jatka fishermen on the need for the conservation of juveniles and the greater benefits they can expect in harvesting adult Hilsa. A process including fishermen in a DoF-operated Hilsa/jatka monitoring, control and surveillance(MCS) system would be developed. The DoF should be equipped with sufficient speedboats/transport to carry out effective and comprehensive MCS activities during the jatka season.


The degradation and shrinkage of the environment in general and of fish habitats in particular are highlighted repeatedly. This has put into jeopardy the sustainability of the fisheries resources, particularly in the openwater capture fishery. The following are some recommendations to address this problem:

- Some human interventions that affect fish habitats adversely are agrochemical and industrial pollution, closing of rivers and channels, and flood control drainage projects which prevent the fish from going from the river to the floodplain and their rearing and breeding grounds. Such interventions should be reconsidered, taking into account the possible adverse impacts on fishery resources, fishermen's livelihoods, and the nutritional requirements of the people.

- The study of the sustainability of fisheries resources, particularly the openwater capture fishery, is extremely difficult and time-consuming. But studies of the sustainability of openwater habitats of important fish species are essential.

- The fishing effort should be controlled wherever it appears the fish stock may reach the limit of sustainability.

- The fisheries resources of the openwater capture fisheries have limits of sustainability in many cases. They can be expanded only if interventions are made to enhance the productivity.

- Strict enforcement of regulations that prohibit the catch of the young as well as brood fish.

- Increased awareness, co-ordination and integrated multisectoral planning among the various ministries overseeing fisheries and water issues to ensure that inter sectoral trade-off, natural resources management, environmental impact assessment and pollution assessment are adequately addressed.

- Appropriate legislative power and resources need to be channelled to environment-oriented departments to ensure that environmental priorities are not overridden by sectoral short term interests.


6.1 Conflict between fishermen
6.2 Fishing community development
6.3 Expectations of public-private partnership
6.4 Women's participation

6.1 Conflict between fishermen

There is conflict between the actual farmer and the people surrounding the waterbody - farms. This situation is especially prevalent during the monsoon.

Conflict over shrimp and paddy land in coastal areas is a major issue nowadays. Legal steps will have to be taken to resolve such conflicts, provide protection to traditional farmers and prevent the certain destruction of habitat vital for the survival of aquatic fauna and juveniles.

6.2 Fishing community development

Fishing in Bangladesh has traditionally been an occupation primarily of members of particular Hindu castes, such as the Halder, Rajbangsi, Kaibarta and Malo. Given the low social status associated with fishing, these communities have traditionally occupied the lower ranks of the social hierarchy in rural communities. Even in Muslim societies, where caste is not recognized, groups traditionally involved in fisheries, such as the Maimal in the northeast of the country, have come to function as caste groups, being considered as having low social status.

While a core of full-time fisherfolk of particular castes are still to be found in most floodplain areas of the country, there is nowadays a wider range of rural people becoming more and more involved in fisheries. These new entrants to fisheries have been attracted by the profitability of certain fishery activities, at least seasonally.

The four groups who catch fish are:

- The traditional caste fishermen.
- Non-traditional fishermen.
- Jalmohal lease-holders and trawler or mechanized boatowners (who are not fishermen).
- The public who catch fish for subsistence purposes.

It is important that fishermen/fish farmers should have a strong association/platform to look after their common interests. These association should be registered and should follow proper systems.

As there is no legal framework specifically designed for community welfare, integrated approaches are necessary, with the involvement of NGOs to implement such multipurpose activities as socioeconomic surveys, transfer of technology, women in fisheries development, community organizations, rural finance, infrastructure and services.

6.3 Expectations of public-private partnership

At the community level, the interaction and activities through the public-private partnerships are expected to produce

- Improved social cohesion amongst groups and members of community through community-based work by NGOs.

- Increase participation of fishers/community in the planning and management of resources.

- Better relationships amongs fishing communities, DoF & NGOs.

- Increased sense of resource-ownership and sustained fisher groups capable of becoming co-managers through skills building and greater participation in the resource management process, and

- Increased livelihood opportunities and human development.

6.4 Women's participation

6.4.1 Existing constraints
6.4.2 Suggestions

The population of women in Bangladesh is 52.5 million out of 120 million. In mobilizing resources, the Government has given much attention to women in the promotion of economic development in the country and feels they can make important contributions to its programme in nation-building.

Women in fishing communities have traditionally been involved in netmaking and mending, fish processing, smallscale retail trade of fish and fishery products and livestock rearing. It is estimated that about 80 per cent of the workforce gathering post-larvae in shrimp farming are women and children. A female labour force has also emerged in shrimp processing plants where 85 per cent of the work, such as sorting, peeling, washing, grading, weighing and packing are done by women.

In the development projects of the Fisheries Department, active participation of women is very significant. A good number of women workers are involved in the Third Fisheries project, the Mymensingh Fish Culture extension project, Food for Work programme, and in other projects. Even in the DoF, out of 818 fishery officers, 54 are women.

NGOs, such as Caritas, Proshikha, and RDRS, have assisted women in smallscale income- generating activities. Pond culture is the prevailing activity of NGO-assisted women's groups and training, credit and input supply are offered them.

6.4.1 Existing constraints

The lack of easy access to credit is one of the problems facing rural women who work in post-larvae shrimp collection. They are also engaged in fishing in rivers and in closed waters, such as beels and baors, where they have to pay fees to get licences for fishing and are often forced to pay such fees to a number of people, several times a year. In the floodplain and in coastal fishing, fewer women professionals are involved in the extension services of the DoF.

6.4.2 Suggestions

- Women should be organized into small groups. They should be trained in technical matters and encouraged to make collective savings so as to enhance their ability to receive credit.

- Members of the organized groups should be provided with credit for fishing and non-fishing income-generating activities.

- Technical guidance is required for women engaged in netmaking.

- Female extension officials should be recruited and posted to areas where there is greater women's participation.


7.1 Inland fisheries acts
7.2 Suggestions for enforcement of fish protection and conservation rules and regulations
7.3 The Tank Improvement Act, 1939 (Bengal Act-15, 1939)

Bangladesh used to get the lion's share of its fish supply from open water. There was a time when 80 per cent of the total production was contributed from open water. But due to overfishing, indiscriminate use of insecticides and pesticides, the building of flood control dams, siltation of rivers and other open waterbodies, water pollution by industrial effluents, lack of effective conservation policies and systems and capture of broodstock as well as juveniles, natural fish production has decreased tremendously in the open water. The following table demonstrates this.

Table 1: Open water fish production











Inland open water (capture)











Total production











As fish production is declining in open water, the time has come to enforce the conservation acts strictly. The establishment of sanctuaries in suitable places is urgently needed. In this connection, the open water fingerling stocking programme initiated in 1990-91 should be mentioned. Since then, production has increased. Therefore, the programme should be continued. Proper stock assessment in marine waters is also required. On the basis of stock assessment information, fishing techniques should be controlled.

7.1 Inland fisheries acts

In order to promote and conserve the fisheries, Government passed The Protection and Conservation of Fish Act, 1950. Its enforcement was entrusted to the Directorate of Fisheries, but the waterbodies remained vested with the Ministry of Land.

This Act contained important major carp fishery regulations, which included prohibition of capture of undersized fish, declared certain seasons in certain areas to be closed for fishing, and controlled the type of trap and gear for fishing. Details of the Act may be found in Annexure I.

Government, under the Tank Improvement Act, 1939 (as amended on August 31, 1986), aimed to take over derelict tanks from multiple or single ownership for improvement for pisciculture purposes. A summary of the Act is to be found in Annexure - II.

7.2 Suggestions for enforcement of fish protection and conservation rules and regulations

Various rules and regulations under the Fish Act, 1950, are in existence, but these have not been properly enforced due to various reasons. It is suggested that at least the undermentioned measures be implemented through perception, motivation and enforcement:

- Ban on erection of fixed engines or gore/gera jal in the flowing rivers.

- The existing ban on the use of current jals, mosharee jal etc. with small mesh sizes be effectively enforced in all parts of the country.

The following steps should also be taken:

- Launching of an intensive publicity campaign through TV, radio, newspaper and other publicity media as well as through posters and leaflets. The publicity should be intensified during the period, when the resource-endangering devices are used.

- Law enforcement agencies at the field level should be urged to cooperate with fishery officers in implementing the rules and regulations. During peak seasons, the police force should be placed at the disposal of the DOF on deputation to implement the various Acts.

- Funds, manpower and facilities for movement should be provided to the District and Thana Fishery Officers to enable them to seize banned gear and devices as well as to detain or arrest violators, if such provisions exist. Magistracy power should be delegated when dealing with such offences. If the magistracy power is not given to TFO/DFO, then the magistrate should be placed on deputation to DOF for the purpose.

The following measures for fishery management of major carp in the riverine carp fishery are recommended:

- Establishing the minimum legal size for capture of major carps at 30 cm. throughout the year.

- Prohibiting fishing at kathas in two neighboring sections of a river in the same year.

- Limiting the length of drift gillnets, fixed gillnets, cages and other contrivances to less than half the width of the waterways.

- Establishing carp sanctuaries in deep pools in the mainstream of the Padma River.

- Conserving beels as fish and wild life sanctuaries.

- The recruitment of a legal advisor by the DOF to draw up regulations and help implement Acts in courts.

- Mobile inspection units should be introduced. The creation of such units would aid considerably in inspecting and controlling fishing and stopping theft. The units could also help the DoF managers of baors and other waterbodies.

- Monofilament net of all mesh size should be declared illegal for fishing

- People's participation to be encouraged in implementing the Act.

- The production, import, carrying and sale of current net of any mesh size should be banned.

- A Co-ordination meeting should be held every month and as and when required with the law enforcing department.

- Like major carps, the exotic carp (Silver, Grass, Common etc.) should be brought under the law.

- Clear mention of 'destruction' of all seized fishing gear should be made in the law.

- The Fish Act itself cannot bring the desired result without education and awareness. Training on the Act should be given to Fishery Officers, Magistrates, Police Officers, Lawyers and Fishermen.

7.3 The Tank Improvement Act, 1939 (Bengal Act-15, 1939)

The Act provides for the improvement of tanks in Bangladesh for purposes of irrigation and pisciculture. The Act enables the Government to requisition ponds if necessary, and governs the acquisition and ownership of adjacent land, compensation etc. An announcement in 1986 gives special emphasis to making derelict ponds productive. Details of the Act are in Annexure - II.


8.1 Marine fisheries
8.2 The Marine Fisheries Ordinance, 1983
8.3 Some suggestions

8.1 Marine fisheries

8.1.1 Industrial fisheries
8.1.2 Coastal Fisheries (Artisanal Fisheries)
8.1.3 Constraints

Marine fisheries have contributed largely in compensating for the decline in catches in the inland fisheries sector. The share of marine fisheries in total national landings has risen from 10.6 per cent in 1970 to 28.22 per cent in 1993.

Bangladesh has an extensive continental shelf, extending virtually to the edge of the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The total area of the shelf down to 200 metres is estimated at 67,000 km2 of which an estimated 37,000 km2 are of less than 50 metre depth. This area is exploited by the country's smallscale fleet composed of some 17,000 boats of different sizes, 6,000 of which are reported to be motorized. Around 95 per cent of the marine fish catches are made by artisanal fishermen and the rest 5 per cent by industrial trawlers.

8.1.1 Industrial fisheries

In Bangladesh, the term 'industrial fisheries' indicates 'largescale fisheries'. Industrial fisheries started in 1971 when seven trawlers were first introduced. At present, Bangladesh has 53 commercial trawlers fishing in the Bay of Bengal. The Industrial trawl fishery is a relatively new development and Government involvement is channeled through the BFDC, which operates a small fleet of fish and shrimp trawlers. Most other trawlers are privately owned, some being operated on a partnership basis. Of the trawlers in operation, 40 are engaged in shrimp trawling, the others target fish.

Like the other fisheries, the largescale marine fisheries also suffer from inefficiency; each trawler lands only about 86 tonnes of shrimp and 154 tonnes of fish per hour of trawl. However, it is not advisable at present to develop largescale industrial fisheries in deep sea waters. No nation has yet found a way to make largescale fisheries sustainable. Its development should not be encouraged until adequate resources are found and proved to be beyond the capacities of enlarged coastal fishing boats.

8.1.2 Coastal Fisheries (Artisanal Fisheries)

Artisanal fisheries includes both commercial and subsistence fisheries. This is still largely traditional and smallscale. It accounts for about 95 per cent of the marine fish landings and, together with smallscale inland fisheries, provides employment to 49,700 full-time and 2,52,000 part-time fishermen. Of 17,000 artisanal fishing boats, 6000 are mechanized but after 1988 no survey has been done of artisanal boats operated in the coastal areas. The boats employed in the coastal area are largely non-motorized. They fish very close to the shore. But whatever the number, the present scene makes it clear that artisanal fisheries is also overcrowded in Bangladesh.

8.1.3 Constraints

The marine fishery sector is constrained by the lack of proper management policy for conservation of marine fishery resources. The Fisheries Ordinance 1983, which makes provisions for the management, conservation and development of marine fisheries, is applicable only to waters deeper than 50 metres. This leaves the bulk of the activities conducted by artisanal fishermen outside the scope of this legislation. There is evidence that inshore waters are heavily overfished.

With knowledge about the standing stock of fish, fish habitats and fish behaviour inadequate, it is difficult to establish a rational management policy and strategy. Sporadic exploratory surveys have been carried out, but they neither adequately covered the vast EEZ area nor provided sufficient information on the status of both pelagic and demersal resources.

Artisanal fishermen still use rudimentary gear and boats and their productivity is low. Except for a few major fishing bases, fishermen have little access to basic infrastructure facilities and this is detrimental to artisanal fishermen, especially when they operate motorized vessels.

8.2 The Marine Fisheries Ordinance, 1983

The Marine Fisheries Ordinance, 1983 deals with the matters relating to marine fisheries exploitation, including monitoring the operation of fishing vessels. The rules, as amended in 1993, provide for licensing and monitoring of artisanal mechanized fishing boats under the Ordinance. The officers of the marine wing of DoF has been empowered to check size or take any other actions required for surveillance and enforcement of the rules of the Ordinance. The contents of the Ordinance are to be found in Annexure-3.

8.3 Some suggestions

- The Fisheries Ordinance, 1983 stipulates regulations only for those fisheries which are operated in waters more than 50

m. deep. There is no specific resource management policy for the conservation of fishing resources in shore waters. Revision of the Fisheries ordinance 1983, to incorporate all types of gear used by artisanal fishermen, is necessary in order to establish effective management systems for artisanal fisheries. Recent studies carried out by the FAO-Bay of Bengal Programme highlight the need for control of the set bagnet fishery.

- In view of the current contribution of the artisanal fisheries to marine fish landings and the vast number of people involved, traditional smallscale fisheries should not be excluded from the management regime.

- Some degree of management is already being carried out for industrial fisheries. However, in view of the declining trend in shrimp catch, monitoring and analysis of trawlers catches, specieswise and groupwise, should be strengthened. The possibility of banning industrial trawling for two months (December-January), to protect shrimp resources, should be studied.

- The Bangladesh Navy is responsibile for enforcement of marine fisheries regulations. It is suggested that the Navy ensure that all trawlers trawl in areas beyond 40 metres depth. Coded mesh size regulations should also be enforced. The level of surveillance and enforcement effort need not be uniform throughout the entire 200 mile zone, but will need to be directed more to areas of high resource density and consequent fishing activities.

- Mobile inspection units should be introduced. The concept of such units is not new, because enforcement at sea is just that.

- The Bangladesh Navy and/or Air Force should carry out regular overflights of fishing areas and report where the vessels were concentrated. Gross counts of craft against total licenses would give a broad indication of over activity.

- The Officer in-Charge of Marine Fisheries should be responsible for inspection and licensing of marine fishing vessels in co-operation with the proposed Inspectorate Service. A register should also be started for all small motorized fishing craft.

- Alternate employment opportunities, for those who are to be siphoned off from the heavily exploited inshore fishing, should be identified.

- Monitoring and analysis of industrial trawler catches, specieswise and groupwise, should be carried out to assess the trends and status of the resources.

- Strengthening the control system and surveillance of illegal fishing by foreign vessels within the Bangladesh EEZ should be a continuous process.


There is potential in inland openwaters as well as marinewaters. If the identified problems are well addressed, the desired result can be achieved.


Kutty, M.N. Aminul Haque, A.K.M. and Bhuian S.R. (1991). Guidelines for Manpower Development Planning in the Fisheries Sector with Special Reference to Resource Types. BGD/87/045/91/12.

Chong, Kee-Chai (1991). Analysis of the constraints to and potentials for expanded fish production in Bangladesh. BGD/87/045/91/07.

FAO/Uniconsult International Limited. Main Report (i-iii). Study on the Institutional Strengthening of the Department of Fisheries. BGD/87/045-001/FAO.

EVERTT, G.V. RAWSON, G.C. HAQUE, LUTFUL (1985). Strengthening the Department of Fisheries. Report prepared for the Fisheries Advisory Service, Phase-ii.

MASUD, A.R. (1994). Laws on Fish. Anupom Bhandan. Technical Support Service Report 1994.


It is generally known as the Fish Conservation Act 1950. The following amendments were made later:

The East Bengal Protection and Conservation of Fish Act, 1950 (EB Act. xviii of 1950)

The East Bengal Protection and Conservation of Fish (Amendment) Act, 1963 (E.P. Act. No.-11 of 1964).

The East Bengal Protection and Conservation of Fish (Amendment) Ordinance, 1970 (East Pakistan Ordinance No.-xxvi of 1970).

The Protection and Conservation of Fish (Amendment) Ordinance, 1982 (Ordinance No.-55 of 1982). The Protection and Conservation of Fish Rules, 1985 (SRO 442-L/85 October 16, 1985. MOFL).

The Protection and Conservation of Fish Rules, 1985 (Ordinance), 1986 (No. 5/Fish Misc 263/84/97.) March 4, 1986 MOFL.

The Protection and Conservation of Fish Rules, 1985 (Amendment) 1987 (SRO-269-law/87.) November 4, 1987. MOFL.

The Protection and Conservation of Fish Rules, 1985 (Amendment) 1988 (SRO-24-law/88.) January 25, 1988. MOFL.

The Protection and Conservation of Fish (Amendment) Act 1995 (law/9.)

The main features of the Fish Act are:

- The fish included are all cartilagenous, bony fishes, prawn, shrimp, amphibians, tortoises, turtles, crustacean animals, molluscs, echinoderms and frogs in all stages of their life history.

- Fishery means fish production, conservation, exhibition, breeding, harvesting etc. in all types of waterbodies, including natural or artificial, open or closed, flowing or stagnant, but artificial aquariums are not included.

- Erection of fixed engines are prohibited in the rivers, canals, khals and beels. Any fish caught by means of such engines may be seized, removed and forfeited.

- Construction of bunds, weirs, dams and embankments or any other structure, whether temporary or permanent, in, on, across or over the rivers, canals, khals or beels for any purpose other than irrigation and flood control are prohibited.

- Destruction of fish by explosives, gun or bow and arrow in inland waters or within coastal territorial waters is prohibited.

- Destruction of fish by poisoning of water or the depletion of fisheries by pollution, by trade effluent or otherwise, in land waters, is prohibited.

- Catching and destruction of certain fish (Shol, Gazar, Taki) during a certain period (April 1 -August 31, each year) is prohibited.

- Catching of carp (Rui, Catla, Mrigal, Kalbaus, Ghania) is prohibited in certain waters, provided that no license for catching of the above named carp fish shall be allowed for purposes other than pisciculture.

- No person is allowed to catch the following other than in pisciculture:

July-December, each year, Carp species below 23 cm.
November-April, each year, Hilsa (jatka) below 23 cm.
November-April, each year, Pangas fish below 23 cm.
February-June, each year, Silon fish below 30 cm.
February-June, each year, Bhol fish below 30 cm.
February-June, each year, Air fish below 30 cm.

- Sale of fish is prohibited, provided that the prohibition shall not apply to the catching, carrying, sale, transport or possession of any fish for the purpose of, or in connection with, pisciculture.

- Forfeited fish will be disposed of by auction and the money shall be deposited in the Government accounts.

- Catching, carrying, transporting, offering, exposing or possessing frogs is prohibited.

- Use of gillnet (commonly known as current net) less than 4.5 cm. mesh size is prohibited.

- Punishment and penalties for violation of rules will result in 1-6 months jail with labour and a maximum penalty of Tk. 1000.

Subsequent punishment and penalties for violation of rules will result in 2-12 months jail with labour and a maximum penalty of Tk. 2000.

- In special cases, a person can be arrested without a warrant.

- Delegation of power:

Class II Magistrate.

Not below the rank of Sub-inspector of police.

Not below the rank of Deputy Ranger in the Sundarbans.

Not below the rank of Fishery Officer (TFO).


The main features of the Ordinance are as follows:

- Requisition by collector to carry out improvements in certain tanks.

- Declaration of a tank to be a derelict irrigation works:

- Order for possession of and improvement of derelict tank;

- Order for possession of lands adjoining a derelict tank to carry out improvements in such tank.

- Authorised person to retain possession of a derelict tank for a period not exceeding twenty years.

- Possession to be restored to owner on certain conditions.

- Authorised person to retain possession of land adjoining a tank during the period of possession of such tank.

- Restoration of possession of land adjoining a derelict tank and retaking of possession of such land.

- Restoration of possession of land adjoining a derelict tank on the restoration of possession of such tank.

- Authorised person not liable to pay rent or compensation.

- Possession by an authorised person not to affect the rights or liabilities of other persons.

- Authorised person to pay rent to owner and compensation to person other than the owner dispossessed by him.

- Authorised person to pay compensation to persons who have right to fish in the tank, etc. on payment.

- Authorised person to pay compensation to cultivators who hold a lease of the bed of such tank.

- Payment of compensation to persons having rights in lands adjoining tank, possession of which is taken under this Act.

- Permission of the authorised person necessary, to use or occupy the tank etc.

- Rights to use the water of the tank.

- Maximum irrigation area.

- Payment and rate of fees.

- Power of authorised person to lease out the tank, etc.

- Bar to transfer of tank, except as provided in this Act.

- Bar to acquisition of occupancy rights in lands leased out;.

- Authorised person to maintain tank in proper condition.

- Authorised person to maintain in proper condition land adjoining a tank, possession of which has been taken by him.

- Restoration of possession of tank.

- Record of rights in respect of derelict tanks.

- Person to whom possession of a tank is restored to maintain it in proper condition.

Derelict Pond Development Act 1939 (Amended 1986)

- Identified derelict pond-owner will be given a notice by DC or TNO of the respective area, mentioning that the pond should be developed and brought to fish culture within a reasonable time.

- If the owner of the specific pond does not respond to the notice, the pond can be acquired. Pond should be given on lease, for a period (not more than 20 years) mentioned, to an interested fish-farmer. The lease money will be distributed to the pond-owner or owners.


The main features of these rules are:

- A director appointed by the government is responsible for resources management, conservation, supervision and development of overall activities in marine fisheries and the implementation of the objectives of this Ordinance.

- Director to issue licence on licence fee, subject to certain conditions.

- The licence-holder is compelled to provide information of fish catch and sale, to the Director.

- Fishing vessels not to interfere with navigation.

- Ban on entry of foreign fishing vessels in Bangladesh-fisheries waters, except those licensed.

- Foreign fishing vessels liable to fine and forfeiture if found in Bangladesh fisheries waters illegally.

- Prohibited fishing methods (use of explosives, small mesh) etc.

- An authorized officer may stop, examine etc. any fishing vessel.

- An authorized officer may enter premises, seize vessels etc. without warrant. Person arrested without warrant to be taken to police station.

- Power to stop vessels and vessels and crew to be taken to nearest port.

- Perishables may be sold by Director.

- Government may permit scientific research.

- No action against authorized officer for acts done in good faith.

- All licensed fishing vessels shall use nets of the following mesh size:

- For shrimp trawlnet (Boom) with low opening, the minimum mesh size shall be 45 mm. at the cod end.

- For fish trawlnet, minimum mesh size at the cod end shall be 60 mm.

- For large mesh drift net (LMD), the minimum mesh size shall be 200mm.

- For small mesh drift net (SMD), the minimum mesh size shall be 100 mm.

- For set bagnet, the minimum mesh size at the cod and shall be 30 mm.

- Area for fishing:

- Area for fishing with set bagnets and hooks and lines: up to 40 m. depth of marine water at its highest tide.

- Area for fishing with driftnet: trawlers must operate beyond 40 m. of marine waters at its highest tide.

- Prohibited methods of fishing:

- Fishing with any gear not of specified mesh size.

- Fishing with any kind of explosives, poison and other noxious substances.

- Fishing by electrocuting the marine species of any type.

- To fish in Bangladesh fisheries waters, all fishing vessels shall have:

- Licenses for fishing in the waters.

- Possess valid certificates as required.

- A nationality sign, through flag and suitable markings, displayed on a visible part of the vessel.

- Every shrimp fishing vessel shall catch and land fish amounting to at least 30 per cent of its total catch during each trip.

- Every fishing vessel with freezers engaged in trawl fishing will be allowed sailing permission for a period not exceeding 30 days and every non-freezer fishing vessel will be allowed sailing permission for a period of 15 days.

- Every fishing vessel shall respond to the instruction of an authorized officer at a marine fisheries surveillance checkpost or at any other place.

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