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Importance of conserving Hilsa stressed

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UNB, Dhaka :
Stressing the importance of conserving hilsa, Fisheries and Livestock Minister Muhammed Sayedul Hoque on Wednesday urged scientists to come forward to conduct research for finding out ways to boost production of the delicious fish.
"First, we must conserve hilsa and then go for research to boost its production. If we lose hilsa, how we'll conduct research," he told the launching ceremony of EcoFish project at Sonargaon Hotel in the capital.
Sayedul Hoque also urged scientists to put forward policy recommendations on how to rescue fishermen from age-old exploitation by middlemen and moneylenders.
Highlighting the Bangali tradition-Machche Bhate Bangali (Fish and rice make Bangali), he said Bangladesh has emerged as one of the leading fish-producing countries of the world, holding 5th position, due to years of relentless efforts of the government and development partners.
He said, hilsa output has now doubled, but its demand has increased many folds. "Still, we can't fulfill the needs of our own people.  Besides, there's a great demand for hilsa in our neighbouring countries."
The Fisheries Minister said hilsa contributes about 12 percent of the country's total fish production, while one percent to its GDP. "And we've so far produced about 0.4 million tonnes of hilsa and expect to produce half a million tonnes over the next two years."
He said, the government has given top priority to implementation of Hilsa Fisheries Management Action Plan, by declaring five sanctuaries in the country's major rivers, banned the use of current net and other illegal gears and hilsa fishing during breeding season.
Speaking on the occasion, US Ambassador in Dhaka Marcia Bernicat said Bangladesh achieved tremendous progress in biodiversity conservation over the last a decade. Saying over-fishing, pollution and loss of habitats are major threats to hilsa, she estimated that economic value of hilsa is $ 2 billion. "The 5-year $ 15 billion initiative (EcoFish) will ensure establishment of Hilsa Conservation Fund," the US envoy added.
Director General of the Department of Fisheries Syed Arif Azad said, "Hilsa production will increase greatly if we can mobilise stakeholders, society, and particularly fishers, to comply with the Hilsa Fisheries Management Action Plan and Protection and Conservation of Fish Act of 1950."
Fisheries and Livestock Secretary M Maksudul Hasan Khan, WorldFish deputy director general Dr Patrick Dugan, country director of WorldFish Craig Meisner and team leader EcoFish project Prof Abdul Wahab, among others, spoke on the occasion.
The Enhanced Coastal Fisheries in Bangladesh (EcoFish), a new project launched yesterday, aimed at conserving stocks of the national fish of Bangladesh hilsa.
Funded by USAID and implemented by Department of Fisheries and WorldFish, EcoFish will improve resilience and governance of the Ganges and Meghna River estuarine ecosystems in which hilsa live and the livelihoods of marginalised communities reliant on fish for income and nutrition.
The project will provide science-based management of hilsa fisheries, promote co-management by community participation, improve the livelihood of the fishers' households by livelihood diversification, and engaging the vast number of women of the fishing families in income generating activities.
EcoFish project will focus on the hilsa fisheries in the Padma-Meghna river systems from Chandpur to Patuakhali covering 400 km of sanctuary areas and other adjacent rivers located in the greater Barisal districts.

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