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Govt plans to buck up fisheries sector

BANGLADESH - The government is considering abandoning the existing system for leasing water bodies in an effort to improve the livelihoods of fishing communities and increase fish production.

Currently non-fishermen, especially people with political influence, manipulate the leasing process depriving real fishermen the opportunity to lease water bodies, said fisheries experts.

Over 10 lakh tonnes of fish is produced each year in 40.36 lakh hectares of open water bodies in the country.

An expert committee on fish resources said fish production could be increased significantly if the present leasing system is changed.

A study conducted by Directorate of Fisheries found that the leasing process followed in the last 20 years by the past governments have been beneficial mainly to a group of intermediaries or middlemen.

Parikkheet Dutta, joint secretary of fisheries and livestock ministry, said the present leasing system deprives true fishermen of access to the water bodies, destroying their livelihood.

A strategy paper on Inland Capture Fisheries suggested that a sustainable fish resource management is urgently required to improve the conditions of the fishermen, he said regretting that implementation of the suggestions never saw the light of day.

The present government, as part of its ongoing reform initiatives, is seriously considering implementing the suggestions made in the strategy paper and bringing changes in the leasing process, Dutta added.

He also said to completely reform the fisheries sector, suggestions made on strategy studies titled Aquaculture Extension Strategy, Inland Capture Fisheries Strategy, Marine Sector Strategy and Shrimp Strategy will be implemented gradually.

The fisheries and livestock ministry recently requested land ministry to relax monetary requirements so that a larger number of fishermen can successfully take part in the leasing process of the water bodies.
For the same reason, the ministry also requested the National Board of Revenue to exempt all tax and VAT (Value Added Tax) accrued on the value of a lease.

Furthermore, following the Inland Capture Fisheries Strategy, the government is likely to lease out the water bodies to community-based fishery management organisations or co-operatives comprising fishermen only.

Source: TheDailyStar