Institute of Agricultural and Food Policy Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Putra Infoport, Jalan Kajang-Puchong, 43400 UPM Serdang Selangor, Malaysia
Fish and fisheries have been an integral part of the life of the people of Bangladesh from time immemorial, and play a major role in employment, nutrition, foreign exchange earning and other aspects of the economy. Fish is a natural complement to rice in the national diet, giving rise to the adage Maache-Bhate Bangali (“a Bengali is made of fish and rice”). At present fish alone supplies about 58% of animal protein. About 13 million people of the country are directly or indirectly dependent on this sector for their livelihood. The Poverty Reduction Strategy paper (PRSP) and National Fisheries Strategy indicate that income generating opportunities for rural households are the most promising in the fisheries sector (MoP, 2005; DoF, 2006). It is estimated that 73% of rural households are involved in some form of freshwater aquaculture on floodplains throughout the country (Mazid, 1999). Aquaculture has the potential to provide new employment opportunities in the rural areas by increasing both self-employment and demand for hired labour (Karim et al. 2006). Fisheries sector currently contributes 4.64% to the gross domestic product (GDP) (MoF, 2009), 23 % to the agricultural GDP and 5.10% to foreign exchange earnings through export (Sarder, 2007). Number of fish and prawn farmers are estimated at 0.308 and 0.115 million respectively. In contrast, number of fishermen is estimates at 0.128 million comprising 0.077 million of fishers operating in inland water bodies and 0.051 million operating on marine fisheries (DoF, 2010a). Fisheries Sector Review (2003) estimates that some 1.1 million people- landless, part time and full time fishers and landowners- are directly involved in capture fisheries. Around 650,000 (67%) are engaged in the inland fisheries and 444,000 (33%) in coastal and marine fisheries. Around 177,500 people are involved in fish and shrimp or prawn seed collection, husbandry and distribution
National Fishery Policy
The Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock prepared the National Fishery Policy (NFP) in 1998 with the overall objective of developing the fisheries sector. The objectives of the NFP are : i) to enhance fisheries production, ii) to alleviate poverty through creating self-employment and improvement of socio- economic conditions of the fishers, iii) to fulfil the demand for animal protein, iv) to achieve economic growth through earning foreign currency by exporting fish and fisheries products, and v) to maintain ecological balance, conserve biodiversity, ensure public health provide recreational facilities (MoFL, 1998).
This document addresses policy measures to be undertaken in four areas or dimensions and recommends policies for several supporting services. The four dimensions of NFP are: (a) policies for the preservation, management and exploitation of fisheries resources in inland open water; (b) policies for fish cultivation and management in inland closed water; (c) policies for prongs and fish cultivation in coastal areas; and (d) policies for preservation, management and exploitation of sea fishery resources (Mandal, 2006). The overall strategy of fisheries subsector development envisages intensification of aquaculture by species and ecosystems, addition of export-oriented species, ensuring biodiversity and preserving natural breeding grounds, product diversification, value addition, and development of appropriate market infrastructure (GPRB, 2009)
Fisheries Resources in Bangladesh
Fish production in Bangladesh takes place under three broad environments namely, i) inland capture fishery, ii) inland culture fishery and iii) marine fishery (Table 1). The first one is an inland capture fishery while the second one is inland culture (aquaculture) fishery. Inland capture fishery comprises rivers and estuaries, Sundarban (water resources in the forest), Beel (deepest part of the floodplain, often with permanent area of water), Kaptai lake (a man-made lake for generation of hydroelectricity) and floodplain. The corresponding water areas are: 853,863 ha for river and estuaries, 177,700 ha for Sundarban, 114,161 ha for beel, 68,800 ha for Kaptai lake, and 2,832,792 ha for floodplain totalling 4,047,316 ha for the total inland open water bodies (capture fisheries). The inland closed water bodies comprise 305,025 ha of ponds and ditches, 5.488 ha of baor (ox-bow lakes) and 217,877 ha of shrimp farms (both freshwater and saline waters) totalling 529,390 ha of total inland closed water bodies (culture fisheries). Thus, the total inland water areas (inland open water capture fishery and inland closed water culture fisheries together) stand at 4,575,706 ha.
In addition, the country has a coastal area of 2.30 million ha and a 710 km-long coast line along the Bay of Bengal, which supports a large artisanal and coastal fisheries. Further, the country has a 200-mile EEZ in the Bay of Bengal (Mazid, 2002). The Bay of Bengal is situated in the south of Bangladesh. There is a total of 166,000 sq km marine water area including EEZ. Fishing is confined only within 100-meter depth (DoF, 2003).
Fish Biodiversity in Bangladesh
The fisheries are multispecies in nature: there are 300 species of fish and 20 species of prawns in Bangladesh (Rahman, 1989). The most common species is ilish (national fish), which accounts for nearly half of total marine catch and about 18% of total fish production of the country. The inland freshwaters of Bangladesh are inhabited by 60 native and 13 exotic species of fish and 20 species of shrimp, of which the majority occur in impounded water bodies. The indigenous carp species of Bangladesh can be divided into two subgroups: major carps (katla, rohu, mrigel and kalbasu) and minor carps (bata, reba, nandina and gonia). Most of the freshwater river systems and floodplains are natural breeding grounds for carps. The major carp species occur in deep pools of the Padma-Brahmaputra river system (Padma, Jamuna, Arial Khah, Kumar and old Brahmaputra rivers) and the Halda River System in Chittagong. The minor carp species inhabit small rivers and the shallow waters of floodplains in the north east (Mymensingh, Netrokona and Mohonganj), southwest (Faridpur and Jessore) and northwest (greater Rajshahi area) (refer to map). Exotic species, comprising mostly Chinese carps, have been introduced since the 1950s (Table 1), but this introductions have not been well documented. Introduced species include silver carps, grass carp, bighead carp, black carp, common carp, silver barb. Tilapia and Mahseer.
Table 1. Exotic Fish Species Introduced into Bangladesh, 1952-98
Source: Adopted from Dey et. al. (2008)
Carps are by far the most important species for pond culture. Three major Indian carps (rohu [Labeo rohita], catla [Catla catla] and mrigal [Cirrhinus cirrhosus] and one exotic carp (silver carp [Hypopthalmichthys molirix]) accounts for about 74% of pond production in FY 2007-08 (DoF, 2009). Other major cultures species in Bangladesh include the grass carp, common carp, silver carp. tilapia and Pangas.
Number of freshwater species is declining at an alarming rate with some species, in recent years, having become extinct. Overfishing, rapid extraction of fish seed and broodstock, 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. Many species are already in crisis and despite conservation initiatives it may already be too late to save them from extinction (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fish_Museum %26_Biodiversity_Center_-_FMBC,_Bang.. accessed on 24/9/2010). According to the Red Book figure, about 54 freshwater species are critically or somewhat endangered in the country. Among them 14 species are listed as critically endangered; 27 as endangered and 14 s vulnerable (IUCN, 2000).
Fish production and its growth
During the 2008-09, Bangladesh produced a total of 2,701,370 metric tons of fish in which inland fisheries contributed 80.95% comprising 41.61% from inland capture fisheries and 39.34% from the inland culture fisheries. Marine fisheries contributed 19.05% (514,644 ton) to the total production (Table 2). Floodplain and Ponds and ditches are largest contributor among the inland capture and culture fisheries respectively. Fish production has been continuously trending upward for the last 25 years (Figure 1).
Table 2. Annual production and productivity by sector of fisheries, 2008-2009
Inland capture fishery had been the main source of fish production in the country till 2000, after which inland culture fishery surpassed the former and becomes a dominant source. Marine fishery had also higher share than inland culture fishery till 1993-94 (Figure 2). Of the inland culture fishery, ponds and ditches had the largest share in total inland culture production, followed by shrimp farms (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Fish production from inland culture fishery
In terms of total fish production of fish in the country, major carps contribute the most (22.87%), followed by exotic carps (11.33%). Ilish, as a lone species, contributes about 11% of the total fish production in the country. Shrimp shared 9.07% of the total fish production. Of this share 78% came from inland fisheries while the rest 22% came from marine fishing. Inland fishery contributed 81% of total production while only 19% is provided by the marine sector (Table 3).
Table 3: Species/group-wise Production (metric ton) in Inland & Marine Fisheries, 2008-2009
% of total
(Rui, Catla, Mrigal and Kalbasu)
Other Carp (Ghania)
Exotic Carp (Silver carp, Common carp, Mirror carp, grass carp)
Production of shrimp/prawn from inland open waters had been higher than inland cultured prawn until 1994-95, falling thereafter throughout. This is mainly due to rapid expansion of gher farming of the brackish water and pond farming for the freshwater prawn. Shrimp production from inland open waters continued to be higher than inland closed water culture fishery till 1994-95, falling thereafter throughout (Figure 4)
Figure 4. Prawn/shrimp production over time by sources Figure 5 Hilsha harvest over time by sources
Ilish (Ilish) is anadromous in nature (an uncommon phenomenon in tropical waters), the hilsa lives in the sea for most of its life, but migrates up to 1,200 km inland through rivers in the Indian sub-continent for spawning. Ilish is mainly available in the major Bangladesh rivers of the Padma and Meghna. Those from the Padma are considered to be the best in taste. However, Ilish is also caught from the sea. But those caught from the sea are not considered to be as tasty as those caught from the river.
Ilish is the national fish of Bangladesh. During 2008-09, production of Ilish from freshwater (inland fisheries) and marine fisheries are 95,970 and 202,951 metric tons. Ilish shares 11% of all fish produced in the country. Ilish harvested from marine waters has been always higher than those harvested from inland open waters (Figure 5). In 2008-09, marine Ilish shared about 68% of the total Ilish harvest (Table 3).
Fish production growth in the eighties appears to be slower than those of the later years. Table 4 shows the exponential growth rates of the different fisheries. The overall fish production in Bangladesh grew at 5.61% rate per year during the 26-year period from 1983/84 – 2008/09. The highest growth rate is 10.37% achieved for shrimp farms. Inland culture fishery grew at 9.69% rate over the period. Inland capture fishery has grown at the lowest rate (3.78%) over the period. Production of rivers and estuaries grew negatively at a rate of 1.48%. Marine fishery on the other hand, shows a growth rate of 4.34% per year.