On February 14th, 2023, representatives of the littoral countries of the Bay of Bengal came together in Kochi, India to discuss the future of marine scientific collaboration in the region. The event, hosted by the BOBP-IGO and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) at the Side-lines of the WGFTFB23 , was opened by Secretary of Fisheries of India, Shri Jatindra Nath Swain, IAS. Additional Secretary for BIMSTEC at the Ministry of External Affairs, Ambassador Rudrendra Tandon, and Deputy Director General (Fisheries) at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR,) Dr. JK Jena, Dr. C. Suvarna, IFS, Chief Executive, NFDB, Dr. J. Balaji, IAS, Joint Secretary (Marine) and Mr. Venu Rajamony, Officer on Special Duty, External Cooperation at Government of Kerala attended the inaugural session.
Setting the context, Dr. P Krishnan, Director, BOBP-IGO and Mr. Willem Punt, South Asia Coordinator, HD delineated the integrated nature of the BOB and transboundary nature of the issues facing the region to highlight the need for cooperation.
During the meeting, participating countries including Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand presented their reports on current research trends and priority issues. They further explored the need for stronger regional cooperation. One of the key outcomes of the event was the proposal for the establishment of a "Bay of Bengal Marine Research Network" and a working group comprising of participants from littoral states. This would identify common research avenues and regional priorities in the domain of fisheries and marine environment, explore options for financing, and promote methods of marine education in the region, including establishing short-term vocational training, joint PhD programs, exchange programs, and joint research.
In support of these efforts, the group urged littoral states to take measures to assist marine research in the region, including exploring options for financing and promoting marine education. They also called on the international community to contribute to the sustainable development of the region.