I work in the coastal region of Bangladesh specially in the south-eastern coastal areas where majority of the peoples’ lives are fishery dependent. Hence, the fishing pressure is unimaginable. I have extended my work in the south-western areas recently for working in the conservation of sawfish.
Bangladesh’s extensive coastline hosts an array of fishers with different fishing practicing. In the Bay of Bengal from 40 m depth to 200 m depth fish resources are extracted, exploiting a great amount of Bangladeshi waters. About 67669 artisanal boats are employing 183707 gears in the coastal and marine waters of Bangladesh and there are existing IUU as well. Shallow water artisanal boats operating in waters up to 40 m deep, mid-water trawlers operating in depths of 40 to 200 m and long-liner trawlers which operated from 200 m to the edge of the EEZ. The dynamic coastline of Bangladesh comprises three major regions: the Ganges tidal plain in the west, Meghna deltaic plain in the south-center and the Chittagong coastal plain in the east. Within the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta in the Bay of Bengal, formed by the confluence of the Ganges, Padma, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers, lies the Sundarbans Reserve Forest (SRF). This is the world’s largest contiguous halophytic mangrove forest, spanning 10,000 km2, 62% of which is located in south-western Bangladesh and the rest in India. The complex ecology of the SRF includes freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats, thereby making the SRF a unique cradle for many endangered and evolutionary distinct species.
I started working to tackle and unveil the trade dynamic of shark and ray products originating from Bangladesh which was the 1ststep to understand how shark conservation will work in the context of our country and how best to do it using a three-pronged approach of research, social change and policy implementation keeping the primary resources users’ perspective at the core of it. I used detailed conversations and interviews surveys to deal with this and conducted regular field visits to identify the species composition in trade and used molecular techniques as well. I took two years to reach to point of trust whereby the cooperative of fishers in Cox’s Bazar is willing to work with me. I try and understand the motivation and possible bottom up approaches to tackle this in the long run. I believe only regulatory measures would never work in such a situation of resources constrain and limited education and livelihood options.
In my DPhil project, I will broadly be looking at how biological sustainability of specie can be used to provide insights for sustainable fisheries and by-catch mitigation with a focus on sharks and rays in Bangladesh. My goal is to initiate evidence based marine conservation in Bangladesh inclusive of the primary resource users, the fishers.
Working for marine conservation is a passion I found rather than what I have grown up with. I was born and brought up in an urban jungle within a conventional societal setting. I did not know what to do with my zoology degree until I started visiting St. Matrin’s Island, the most unexplored region in Bangladesh in terms of marine biodiversity and a 70% inhabitants dependent on that. I realized how conservation isn’t a goal to achieve but a path to follow and that too by solutions, education and practices inclusive of the primary resources users’ perspective, here the fishers. The community dependent on the ocean were more enlightened about the ecology and biology of the fish than I was with a fishery degree and I found my passion to work for marine conservation where I don’t impose solutions but learn and use a bottom up approach. I was overwhelmed by the peace it brought, just to sit beside the sea that nothing brought me in the 24 years I spent in the cities that time.
I did my MSc in Biodiversity Conservation and Management from University of Oxford with the view to learn global perspectives and made an amazing network with similar minded people. Upon coming back, I stated to work with the fishers and trades of sharks and rays in Bangladesh, another area that needs immediate research and conservation actions.
It is extremely difficult to find a person’s true calling and passion. I would say I am fortunate that I am on the path to find mine.