Fish is the second most valuable agricultural crop in Bangladesh and its production contributes to the livelihoods and employment of millions of people. In addition to being a crucial source of nutrients, fish is also a major part of Bangladesh culture. Some 15 million people of a total population of 155 million are estimated to be either directly or indirectly employed in the fishery sector, and 73 per cent of rural households are involved in aquaculture. As already discussed above this industry contributes around 2.5% of our entire exports and is the second largest exported commodity sector of Bangladesh. Although the contribution of this sector to our GDP is minimal there are huge growth prospects as well as challenges associated with this sector.
Destructive fishing practices
There has been a trend of declining fish species as well as stock due to the uneducated rural population harvesting and producing fish without proper knowledge and resources which has led to a various number of issues that has significantly affected the volume of production in Bangladesh. Overfishing, rapid extraction of fish seed and brood stock, destructive and unregulated fishing practices, pollution, introduction of exotic species, loss of aquatic habitat due to siltation, dam construction, and other anthropogenic activities have been the major causes of fish species loss. The fall in the country’s fish stocks, particularly of the most commercially popular species, is a result of poor resource management – both a lack of legislation and of enforcement of extant rules – and the negative environmental impact of human activities in Bangladesh. Participants in both artisanal and industrial fisheries exploit marine and inland resources without full oversight by public authorities.
Most governing legislation is focused on monitoring industrial trawling activity, but the Government faces difficulties in ensuring that industrial operations adopt sustainable fishing practices; while trawlers have officially been restricted from operating in waters deeper than 40 m – in an effort to protect the spawning ground of many commercially exploited shrimp species – they continue to operate in waters as little as 10 m deep, and this excessive fishing of juvenile and immature shrimp has decreased the natural replacement rate, and the catch per unit effort of shrimp – kg/day/shrimp trawler – has steadily decreased by about 50 per cent since the early 1990s.The government in line with SDG 14 has taken measures to conserve fish species by restricting production and harvesting of fish during their juvenile time period. Notable measure were taken related to Hilsha fish (Ilish) where the authorities have restricted cultivation of Jatka (Baby Hilsha) by issuing a 65 day fishing ban.
Vulnerability of climate change
Bangladesh in general is highly vulnerable to predicted climate changes that are already occurring and are expected to continue over the next century. Climate change has both direct and indirect impacts in fish stock which are exploited commercially. Climate changes directly effects on physiology and behavior of fish and alter growth, reproductive capacity, mortality and distribution. Climate change has increased the fluctuation of temperature and rainfall, prolonged drought, delayed the winter and summer seasons, increased the occurrence and intensity of storms, changed physical properties of the water bodies, and deteriorated the quality and availability of water and the ecosystems as a whole. It also has increased the disease prevalence in most of the cultural and natural fish species, henceforth fish mortality increased and decreased the production which makes the traditional fishermen livelihood vulnerable. Similarly, in hatchery operation, fish do not respond in breeding in time, leading to lower ovulation, small number of eggs produced per individual, lower rate of egg fertilization, poor hatching and low survival rate that reduces total fry and fingerling production in the region.
Competition in global market and price collapse
High bulk of frozen foods i.e. frozen shrimp (black tiger) and fish goes to EU markets. However, the price of frozen shrimp and fish drooped 42% to $5.25 a pound (16-20 pieces) from August 2014. According to Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association (BFFEA), they are compelled to sell at lower prices to retain the international buyers. According to the BFFEA, largely shipment fell 5% year-on-year to 32 800 tons in July-January of this fiscal 2013-2014 and 2014-2015. According to export Promotion Bureau, earnings were down 5% to US$ 397.6 million during the period compared to the same period a year ago. Bangladesh faces huge competition from Vennami prawn in the world market which is $2-2.5 lower in price than Bengal tiger prawns which is exported.
Global economy and changes
Since seafood is mainly exported from Bangladesh and is the second largest exported item global trends, laws and events have a massive impact on the production, price and demand. For example Brexit had a relatively huge impact on this sector because almost worth TK100 crore of export was kept on hold during 2016 when the UK was unsure about their existing trade laws. Under EU Bangladesh enjoyed DFQF (Duty free, Quota free) trade between UK and other EU countries, with UK out of EU trade relations with UK, the third largest exporting country and also EU was threatened. It was more of a concern because all EU exports previously went through London so after Brexit the fishery specially shrimp importers were in a dilemma. However, the DFQF trade relation has again been re-established between UK and Bangladesh but EU trade in still of concern.
Such incidents can have a major impact on this sector of the economy and can affect a lot of people who base their livelihood on this.
Fund scarcity, irregular funding, lack of uniform service rules, limited opportunities for permission, etc., are on the constraining factors for dissatisfaction of scientists in harmonizing research. Low production, knowledge gaps, lack of dependable marketing information, disease hazards, required inputs supports and uneducable technologies are major factors responsible for optimizing production. Therefore, the sector is to face serious challenges to keep pace with the production target with the demand in future. The challenges to the sector may be as follows.
Key success factors
The fact that the Government has recognized the fisheries industry to be the second most important agricultural sector is in itself an indication of change. The international trade flows have been mostly dependent on RMG sector and the government has realized that putting all eggs in the same basket is not a wise decision and that there needs to be greater diversification in the exported products. Fisheries specially shrimp industry in notable for being the second largest exported item and there has been increased attention to this sector.
Previously this was a neglected sector with fisherman and farmers complaining about lack of resources, but nowadays the government has urged for more fish feed production for better availability. The government has also taken initiatives to invest further funds into this sector and taken policy measures to improve production.
One of the key challenges is lack of knowledge of the fish farmers who needs to know about sustainable production of fish without degrading the species. We will most likely see an increased investment in this growing sector. Bangladesh captured 2.5 % of world shrimp market. At the present time the world market demand for shrimp is increasing day by day. It is the 12th largest shrimp producer in the world with an ever increasing demand. With proper diversification and investment in this sector the growth potentials are immense. It will not only increase local consumption of fish but also help increase exports and on top of that can be a source of living for a lot of people.