Conservation trust fund proposed to help Bangladesh increase fish stocks

Proposals for a new Hilsa Conservation Trust Fund that aims to relieve the financial burden from the government and help bridge the finance gap were discussed by Bangladesh fisheries officials and researchers and practitioners on 11 June.
Press release, 11 June 2015

The proposed conservation fund will aim to help Bangladesh to increase stocks of its national fish, the hilsa. The fund will work by improving incentives for sustainable fisheries management. 

Bangladesh's Minister of Fisheries and Livestock, Muhammed Sayedul Hoque, said at the meeting that he was committed to implementing the new fund. He said: "I give you assurance that all possible measures will be taken by the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock for establishment of the Hilsa Conservation Trust Fund in Bangladesh for sustainable development, conservation and management of our national fish."

The hilsa fish (Tenualosa ilisha) is a staple food in Bangladesh. More than half a million people depend on it for their livelihood. Over-fishing has led to fears of a collapse in fish stocks.  

The Bangladeshi government has set up five "hilsa sanctuaries" where fishing is banned during the breeding season. The government provides food and alternative income-generating activities to compensate fisher communities for lost earnings. The proposed Hilsa Conservation Trust Fund is designed to improve the effectiveness of the incentive mechanisms. 

The Dhaka meeting discussed the business case for the fund and reviewed the experiences of other conservation trust funds around the world. Participants also reviewed the proposed memorandum and articles for the fund, and agreed the key milestones of the initiative, from initial proposal to implementation. 

The proposal for the fund is part of a three-year project being undertaken by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), the Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) and the Bangladesh Department of Fisheries. The project is being funded by the UK's Darwin Initiative.

The Bangladesh Secretary of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Dr Shelina Afroza, also attended the Dhaka meeting. Earlier this month Dr Azad led a high-level Bangladeshi delegation to the European Development Days Forum, to discuss the Darwin-Hilsa project.  Dr Azad and researchers from IIED and BAU presented a session on the lessons of the project for Bangladesh and other national governments. 

IIED researcher Essam Yassin Mohammed, right, hands over Hilsa Conservation Trust Fund documents to Dr Syed Arif Azad, director general of the Department of Fisheries at European Development Days (Photo: Essam Yassin Mohammed/IIED)


Bangladesh's Minister of Fisheries and Livestock, Muhammed Sayedul Hoque said: "I express my gratitude to the Darwin-hilsa project for taking this initiative. Establishment of the Hilsa Conservation Trust Fund is very timely when our hilsa fishery is under pressure of exploitation due to increase of population and climate change effects.

"I hope that the workshop would discuss the Hilsa Conservation Trust Fund documents critically and recommend appropriate measures for improvement. Following this workshop, a revised draft document of the trust fund will be submitted to the Department of Fisheries for review and submit to the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock for further action.

"I give you assurance that all possible measures will be taken by the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock for establishment of the Hilsa Conservation Trust Fund in Bangladesh for sustainable development, conservation and management of our national fish."

Dr Essam Yassin Mohammed, a senior researcher with IIED, said: "The Government of Bangladesh is rare in that it recognised the impact of restricted fishing activities on fisher households and moved to compensate them. The government's actions are unique in that they have now been running this compensation without any external assistance for over 10 years, for which they should be commended."

Dr Syed Arif Azad, director general of the Department of Fisheries said:  "It was important for the Department of Fisheries to share Bangladesh's unique learnings on fisheries management. We welcome the learnings from this research project and look forward to using them to make the government scheme even more effective in the future.

"We will take these recommendations seriously and I hope they will enable us to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the incentive-based scheme for hilsa management. We will continue to work with IIED and other development partners to pursue the ratification process of the proposed Hilsa Conservation Trust Fund. We hope to see it up and running."

Additional information:

There are a number of issues relating to the social targeting of the compensation scheme and the biophysical aspects of hilsa fishery. These include:

  • In order for compensation project to be able to achieve its social objectives, more emphasis on 'vulnerable and fishing dependent households' is needed
  • The targeting strategy needs more clarity. Currently the criteria for selection are complex and less transparent for the fishing community. This will allow the fishers to view the compensation distribution as fair and be more likely to comply with the rules 
  • Efforts need to be made to improve the water quality and quantity in the sanctuaries. Recommendations include: tackling pollution from industrial and domestic effluents, more dredging to minimise siltation, and regulate river diversion in upstream areas
  • While the current scheme bans jatka (juvenile hilsa) fishing for eight months during November to June, jatka fishing should be banned throughout the year, and
  • The current scheme bans hilsa brood (adult) fishing for just 11 days during the full moon of the month of Ashvin (October). Our study on the reproductive cycle of hilsa indicates that spawning peak for hilsa more than 11 days. Therefore, the ban should be extended to at least 30 days, which may affect compensation levels.


For more information and interviews, contact:

Essam Yassin Mohammed ([email protected]), senior researcher (environmental economics), IIED's Sustainable Markets Group (English)
BCAS: Md. Liaquat Ali ([email protected] (Bangla))

Notes to editors

Bangladesh Agricultural University is the premier seat of higher agricultural education and research in the country. The university was established as the nation's only university of its kind in session 1961-62 on the basis of recommendations made by the Commission of National Education and the Food and Agriculture Commission in 1959. The university formally came into existence on 2 September 1961. The missions of Bangladesh Agricultural University have been to develop the art and science of agriculture for the wellbeing of mankind, and to educate agriculturists of high standards of scientific, managerial and professional competence in harmony with the environment, and to share knowledge and skills with world partners.

The Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS) is an independent, non-profit, non-government, policy, research and implementation institute working on sustainable development (SD) at local, national, regional and global levels. It was established in 1986 and over 25 years has grown to become a leading research institute in the non-government sector in Bangladesh and South Asia.

IIED is an independent, non-profit research institute. Set up in 1971 and based in London, IIED provides expertise and leadership in researching and achieving sustainable development.

For more information or to request an interview, contact Simon Cullen: 
+44 7503 643332 or [email protected]