Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on Fisheries Management

Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on Fisheries Management

India and Bangladesh share 54 rivers – both small and large, which provide livelihoods and food security to a large portion of population in this region. The Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) basin is considered a rich source of fish biodiversity, with Fisheries contributing greatly to the livelihoods and food security of the people in the basin. Fish is an integral part of the cultural and economic lives of people in quite a few parts of South Asia. The Hilsa fish, for instance, shares pride of place as a common cultural factor between India and Bangladesh.

Hilsa fishing is an integral economic activity in the region, with the practice forming one of the most commercially lucrative fisheries in India. Hilsa, being a delicacy, has a high demand, which has led to indiscriminate fishing. Oftentimes fisherfolk end up catching even the juvenile fish, leading to a depletion of the natural Hilsa stock. This has raised concerns about the conservation of Hilsa fish in India and Bangladesh.

Further, while Fisheries contribute heavily to the nutritional requirements of the riparian people, the sector has its fair share of challenges ranging from Illegal to Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. This leads to problems such as fisherfolk crossing borders and unknowingly creating a law-and-order issue. This calls for an increased need of awareness regarding norms that apply to transboundary rivers.

Additionally, there is also a continued requirement to generate awareness and encourage fisherfolk to adopt newer technologies, bridge gaps in regulations and policies, critically linked to infrastructure, marketing and such.

In view of this, Oxfam India organised a multi-stakeholder consultation titled, 'Learnings, Challenges, and Legal Aspects of Fisheries Management' on 29th September, 2021, in Guwahati, Assam, under the aegis of the ongoing TROSA (Transboundary Rivers of South Asia) programme*.

The multi-stakeholder dialogue was organised with the aim of improving policies and practices of governments that protect the rights of river basin communities to water resources, specifically on fisheries management, and was attended by 25 participants from India, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

The consultation kick-started with a clear two-pronged agenda to build a consensus between regional multi-stakeholders, enhance knowledge and income generation ideas through fisheries management, and to empower fisherfolk women and the local youth by understanding their constraints and encouraging them to leverage various public benefit schemes of the government.

Panellists, comprising actors from Government, Public Sector Enterprises, Civil Society Organizations and fisher communities from India, Bhutan and Bangladesh, discussed experiences, learnings, challenges, legal aspects pertaining to transboundary fisheries management, and how to enhance small-scale fisheries. They deliberated on various enabling factors for improving fisheries policies and practices for fishers in the Brahmaputra basin, with the key takeaways being:

  • The consensus building between regional stakeholders is important in order to enhance the incomes of small-scale food producers. Cage culture is an example of an alternative livelihood opportunity during periods of fishing ban by the Government of Assam under Chief Minister’s Samagra Gramya Unnayan Yojana (CMSGUY). This initiative is particularly focused on diversification of species, feed based aquaculture, and adoption of high yielding varieties and technology.
  • Ecosystem, fish and fisher folk are at the core of integrated fisheries management. Therefore, while we look at it as a viable alternative source of livelihood, it is crucial to build a socio-ecological case for fisheries management where wetlands are not rapidly disappearing and industrial fishing is not depleting the natural resources. There is a need to organise frequent Regional / State Multi-Stakeholder Programmes to relook the gaps and take further actions.

This helped steer panellists and participants through a purposeful sharing of thoughts, ideas and opinions, including an enriching exchange of case studies that will further help communities enhance their ideas, document practices and income opportunities. It is step closer to an integrated approach towards management of fisheries through convergence with various policies of the government, as part of the way forward.

*TROSA (Transboundary Rivers of South Asia), is supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and managed by Oxfam. The project aims to reduce poverty of marginalized and vulnerable river basin communities through increased access to, and control over, water resources, over which their livelihoods depend. The details of the project can be accessed here.

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Transboundary Rivers of South Asia (TROSA)

A programme to understand and address challenges related to transboundary rivers and communities in these river basins.

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