Though the high-tech ocean survey vessel has successfully continued its assessment for the last two seasons, Bangladesh will have to wait for two-three years more to get the reliable data on fish resources in the Bay of Bengal, according to experts.
Conducting the survey in the last two seasons (November-April), the research vessel found a total of 298 fish species within the country’s sea area, officials said.
The survey vessel, equipped with the latest technology of fisheries and other oceanographic research, was procured from Malaysia in 2016 to assess the country's marine resources as Bangladesh got a vast sea area through the disposal of longstanding disputes with the two neighboring countries -- India and Myanmar.
“We’ll reach a decision over utilisation of marine fish after completing the survey for five years (2017-2021),” Fisheries and Livestock Minister Narayon Chandra Chanda told.
According to initial findings of the survey, there are huge potentials of having good stock of marine fish in the Bay of Bengal, he said.
Bangladesh will get a comprehensive and reliable data over the stock of fish resources in the Bay of Bengal by 2022 through conducting the assessments by the survey vessel, the minister added.
He said the survey vessel can conduct assessments for six months (November-April) a year, while it cannot do for the rest six months due to bad weather in the sea.
“The survey vessel has successfully completed its assessment in the two seasons (November-April). And it has so far found 349 species (of living resources), including 298 fish species in the sea,” said Director General of Fisheries Department Md Goljar Hossain.
Echoing the minister, Goljar Hossain said there is possibility of having good fish stock in the sea as per the initial report of the survey. “But, it will take a few years more to get the overall picture on the stock.”
The DG said they will prepare a policy on tapping the fish resources after having the overall picture on the reserve in the country’s marine boundary.
The policy will be prepared in the line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 2030 and the Vision 2041, said Goljar Hossain.
Prof Sayedur Rahman Chowdhury of Institute of Marine Sciences and Fisheries at Chittagong University said they are hopeful of having a good assessment by the survey vessel.
“We’ll have reliable data on marine fisheries by 2022 as it requires the survey reports of the five years to draw a reliable conclusion over the stock of fish resources,” he said.
Prof Chowdhury said Bangladesh should concentrate largely on tapping fish as there is a better potential of good reserve of living resources than that of mineral resources --petroleum and non-petroleum ones-- in the sea.
“Living resources or fish resources are renewable resources. So, the government should pay attention largely to utilisation of fish resources,” he said.
He said the potentials of petroleum and non-petroleum mineral resources are not so high in the Bay as different international studies and reports suggest.
The high-tech 37.8-meter-long multipurpose research vessel, which cost Tk 65.5 crore, started its assessment in the Bay in November, 2016.
In 2012, Bangladesh won 111,631 square kilometres of sea area after a longstanding dispute with Myanmar following the much-celebrated verdict of International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea based in Hamburg, Germany.
Bangladesh also gained some 19,467 square kilometres of maritime area in a case against India in 2014 through a verdict of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) based in The Hague.
According to experts, the two verdicts have paved the way for Bangladesh to unlock the marine potentials in the vast sea area.