Bangladesh lies between the Himalayan mountains and the Bay of Bengal in the delta of the River Ganges and Brahmaputra. It commands jurisdiction over 166 000 sq. km of water area, including the 200-mile EEZ. One fifth of the population live in coastal areas. Most of them depend on marine resources for their livelihood. Fisheries plays a conspicuous role - through nutrition, employment generation and foreign exchange earnings.
Marine fishing is largely confined within a depth of 100 meters. Nearly 70 trawlers and 51 000 mechanized and non-mechanized boats are active in fishing. Pelagic and deep-sea resources are largely untapped.
Till the mid-1960s, fishing in the estuaries and coastal waters was carried out by traditional craft. Mechanization of boats started in 1975 and has been steadily increasing since. Mechanized boats generally fish with drift gill nets and long lines and vary in length from 5 m to 15 m. They operate with 22-60 hp engines and a crew of 14-18.
Small-scale fishermen, who contribute about 95 per cent of the total marine production of the country, make their living from the sea using craft such as dinghies, chandi and balam. The major fishing gear employed in the estuaries and coastal areas are gill net, set bag net, trammel net, long line and beach seine.
The traditional estuarine set bag net (ESBN) fishery is not merely the major employer of poor rural inhabitants, but is also responsible for much of the country's marine and brackish water capture fisheries production.
Some half a million people are engaged in marine artisanal fisheries. Most coastal fishermen operate in the coastal zone. Most of them own neither land nor assets. With the rapid increase in
fisher folk population, fishing in coastal areas is characterized by low catches and fishing rights conflicts. Fishermen are now opting to fish away from the coast.
It is assumed that substantial harvestable resources exist for pelagic stocks like mackerel, tuna, shark, anchovy, sardine, cephalopod,
etc. No detailed surveys have been conducted for pelagic fishery resource for a long time. Thus, there is a need for fresh surveys to assess the present stock position.
Frozen shrimp and fish together accounted for more than 26 000 mt, out of the total of
28 477 mt of fish exported during 1998-99. About 95 per cent of fish products are exported to European countries, USA and Japan.
The Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock (MOFL) is the nodal Ministry for fisheries and aquaculture development in
Bangladesh. The Department of Fisheries (DOF) heads institutional support to fisheries in
the country and is headed by a Director General. The DOF operates three fish inspection and quality control stations, a Marine Fisheries Station, Fisheries Training Centres and farms and hatcheries.
The Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute (BFRI), an autonomous
organisation under the MOFL, was established in 1984 and has six stations located at Mymensingh, Chandpur, Rangamati, Cox's Bazar, Paikgacha (Khulna) and Santahar (Naogaon). The Bangladesh Fisheries Development Corporation (BFDC), established in 1964, helps to harvest fisheries resources and develop marketing facilities. BFDC has established fish habour, landing and distribution centres, ice plants and processing plants.
A national fisheries policy has been adopted to increase fish production through optimum utilization of resources. Other objectives are employment generation and poverty alleviation.