Isabela Foundation has organized marine biodiversity survey in the Bay of Bengal with special emphasis on ‘Swatch of No Ground’ (SoNG) from November 17-21. A research team, consisting of 40 members and headed by Kabir Bin Anwar, will cruise SoNG by Meen Sandhani Research vessel. The research programme is jointly organized by the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock and Isabela Foundation in collaboration with Bangladesh Navy.
SoNG, a mysterious sub-marine canyon in the Bay of Bengal, is a less studied marine ecosystem on earth. SoNG, a trough-shaped marine valley or canyon that crosses the continental shelf diagonally, is situated on the south of the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta. It is also known as Ganga Trough. Similar delta-front troughs are found in the mouth of the Indus River known as Indus Trough and in the West Side of the Mississipi delta, the Mississipi Trough. SoNG has a comparatively flat floor. At the edge of the shelf, depths of the trough are about 1,200m. It has been suggested that the SoNG has a seaward continuation for almost 2,000 km down the Bay of Bengal in the form of fan valleys with levees. The sandbars and ridges near the mouth of the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta pointing towards the ‘Swatch of No Ground’ indicate that sediments are tunneled through this trough into the deeper part of the Bay of Bengal.
Well, Bay of Bengal is an attention-grabbing marine biome as far as its biological diversity is concerned. Most of the available information related to marine resources of Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh’s jurisdiction are particularly on its Icthyofuana. A few sporadic surveys were conducted on the coastal aquatic biological resources which were mainly focused on fish and avifauna. But there is a dire need to have an inventory of marine resources, comprehensive enough for long-term strategic planning to attend the UN-SDG 14 at national level.
Earlier in March of this year, Isabela foundation organized an exploration at SoNG in collaboration with Bangladesh Navy and identified the priority needs in marine research. Kabir Bin Anwar, Director General, administration of the Prime Minister’s Office and chairperson of Isabela foundation, organized the reconnaissance survey in March 2017 under the banner of Isabela Foundation (IF) with support from Bangladesh NAVY and BIWTA. Those findings of SoNG exploration were shared with Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock’s and Department of Environment at Bangladesh Secretariat. The recommendations made by Isabela foundation were appreciated by the Ministry and it also asked the foundation to submit a proposal for future course of action. It was also decided that this initiative is required to be merged with the ongoing programme of the Ministry to add value in collecting information on non-fish biodiversity and marine ecology.
Hence this ‘Quest For Sea and Life’ (QfSL), in collaboration with MOFL and Bangladesh Navy, is a timely initiative to learn about marine research technologies and generate primary data for making science-based marine resources management plan by the government.
Some of the goals and objectives of this recent expedition include - (i) to get practical idea about marine biota of Bay of Bengal, (ii) to collect updated information on the marine biodiversity of Bay of Bengal and adjacent areas, (iii) to trial the feasibility of underwater diving by the professional scuba divers, (iv) to learn about the Trans-boundary networking in MPA management (ICTPs) and, (v) to get idea and prepare sustainable guidelines for using marine resources.