Evidence-based advocacy for inclusive fisheries governance across Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) river basins

Learning Brief: Hilsa Watch

Oxfam in Asia - Learning brief - Water Governance - Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) River
Paper author: 
Oxfam Water Governance - Transboundary Rivers of South Asia
Paper publication date: 
Friday, November 30, 2018

More than a million fisherfolk’s livelihood depends on Hilsa value chain in South Asian countries. Bangladesh, being a key habitat of the fish, also pioneers governance of fisheries by enforcing a ban on Hilsa catching during the spawning and passage periods as well as helping the fisherfolks to survive the period under a safety-net program. India and Myanmar are gradually adopting governance processes like Bangladesh to sustain Hilsa existence and catch.

There have been outcries from the fisherfolks to revisit the current management practice in terms of the implementation timing, process, and compensations.

In response, Oxfam and partners have started a voluntary reporting system ‘Hilsa Watch’, engaging 480 fishers and 55 young volunteers from two strategically selected locations in Meghna and Brahmaputra river basins, starting from October 2018.

The results of the first round of this activity in October 2018 indicates that the expenditure needs of the fisher families are considerably higher than the compensation package offered to them. The seasonal availability of the fish varies geographically, benefits of which is skewed towards the coastal region, in comparison with the upstream areas.

The results are being used to catalyze discussion among pro-conservation and pro-human-rights members of civil society to advocate for greater inclusion of the fisherfolks in the governance process of Hilsa fisheries, so the fisherfolks can be heard and can claim their rights to fish. In 2018, communities raised their voices to the Department of Fisheries and Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute and were verbally assured that their concerns will be discussed at higher levels.

Key suggestions include promoting a participatory fisheries management system, with a win-win benefit package for fishers from all geographic locations.