USAID Enhanced Coastal Fisheries in Bangladesh II (ECOFISH II) Quarterly Report (July 1, 2020 –September 30, 2020)

USAID’s ECOFISH II enhances community resilience through improving the savings, livelihoods and coping strategies of host fishing communities in the USAID Zone of Resilience (ZOR) and marginalized and extremely poor fisher folks in the MRE and Nijhum Dwip MPA areas. This 3rd quarterly progress report describes the accomplishments and achievements of ECOFISH II from July to September 2020 in all the ToOs. Activities in ZOR have been implemented with the key partnerships of Shushilan, Chattogram Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (CVASU) and Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST). In addition, Falcon International Ltd has been working closely with the project to develop and expand seaweed, green mussel farming and creating market linkages for fishers’ livelihood improvement. In the MRE, Noakhali Science and Technology University (NSTU) and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University (BSMRAU) are associated with the project implementation. In the Nijhum Dwip MPA, IUCN has been working along with the project teams. All the partner’s sub-projects, their objectives/activities and brief progress are summarized in Section 10 (Table 9).
Activities on ecosystem health management, coastal biodiversity conservation and monitoring of coastal fisheries dynamics are in progress under the first sub-IR1 (Improved science outputs for decision-making). Four universities (BSMRAU, CVASU, NSTU, and SUST) are playing important roles in achieving the science outputs. In this quarter, BSMRAU measured nutrient concentrations focusing on Dissolved Inorganic Phosphate (DIP) and Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen (DIN) concentrations in different locations of the lower Meghna River and the Nijhum Dwip MPA. To improve ecosystem health, collection of plastic and net materials from shore areas as well as from fishing vessels have been initiated to reduce sea pollution. In partnership with CVASU, fish biodiversity and spawning season assessment through fish larvae assessment have been continued, and so far, 351 fish larvae specimens have been identified and documented. NSTU as well as ECOFISH II team have conducted several awareness building activities on catfish conservation throughout the MRE ToO, and distributed thousands of colorful leaflets and posters bearing various Pangas conservation messages among the stakeholders. In addition, length-weight relationships of juveniles and maturity stages of adult Pangas were examined. As a part of the MPA delineation in the Teknaf-St. Martin’s Island area, fishing activities focusing on seasonal variability, major commercial species diversity, and fishing zones were assessed, and a fishing calendar has been prepared in partnership with SUST.
In ZOR, the project introduced innovative AIGAs in the form of marine farming that includes seaweeds (Hypnea, Enteromorpha, Gelidium, Sargassum sp, Ulva sp, Dictyota sp, Porphyra sp, Padina sp and Gracilaria sp) farming, green mussel farming, and crab fattening. All these activities progressed significant in spite of the impact of COVID-19. The project also provided training to 150, 100, and 12 beneficiaries in ZOR on seaweed, green mussel farming, and crab fattening, respectively. Total 208 kg dried seaweed (2,080 kg wet weight) has been harvested during July- September that worth BDT 31k ($369). Seaweed market linkages have been established by Falcon International Ltd. Green mussel production will start in 4th quarter of 2020. The project trained 500 poor fishers’ women on small pelagic hygienic fish drying in 4 Upazila in Cox’s Bazar district and provided support to prepare bamboo-made fish drying platform along with fresh pelagic fishes.
Detailed size compositions of top 10 important species were monitored in BFDC landing center. The highest 678 tons of Hilsa was landed in the BFDC Ghat in September followed by 287 tons in August and 241 tons in July 2020. In addition, 20 Citizen Scientists who were equipped with Smart Phone and Bangla ODK Apps have been engaged in collecting real-time on-board fish catch data. ECOFISH II team rescued 25 Olive Ridley (Vulnerable) and one Hawksbill (Critically endangered) turtles from entangled fishing nets released in the sea, and 40 boat skippers were trained on megafauna conservation focusing on how to release entangled turtles and dolphins.
The formation and strengthening of co-management institutions activities are in progress in ZOR under the second Sub-IR1 (improved adaptive co-management and fisheries governance). ECOFISH II team and project partner Shushilan concurrently working at 15 villages in Teknaf and Ukhiya and IUCN working in 11 villages in MRE (MPA sites) to establish co-management building block. Total 237 training-meetings have been conducted during this reporting period following the formation of 96 (75 in ZOR and 21 in MRE) Fisheries Conservation Group (FCG). Other activities relevant to strengthen the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) and improve fisheries governance is also in progress. A significant success in this quarter was to successfully arrange joint co-management and Hilsa development related task force committee meeting with the department of fisheries at different level (e.g. 48 FMC meeting, 1 union, 2
Upazila and 2 district level meeting). These meetings were especially focused on the compliance to the upcoming Brood Hilsa ban period. All activities for improved adaptive co-management and fisheries governance at MRE region are ongoing. Detailed local level capacity building status with different co-management tiers are stated in section 9.5.
ECOFISH-II team with the help of Shushilan, IUCN is providing AIGA support to improve the livelihood resilience of coastal fishing communities in ZOR area and MPA sites of MRE (under the IR2-improve equity and resilience of food, nutrition and livelihood benefits). In this quarter, the team has provided livelihood supports to 2,100 households both in ZOR (1,543hh), MRE (MPA-498 & Haloishar model village-59). Majority of the supported inputs were poultry (chicken, duck, pigeon, turkey), goats, fish drying business, raw fish business, she cows (in model village only), grocery shops and agricultural/aquaculture supports.
ECOFISH II continued to support its beneficiary through community savings group (CSGs) activities with a particular focus on promoting livelihood improvement-oriented micro-entrepreneurship. To date, 168 CSGs (148 in MRE and 20 in ZOR) saved BDT 4,32k (US$177k) both in MRE and ZOR during this reporting quarter, and 139 women received soft loans in this quarter as well. With this monetary help, many of these CSG members started small scale business such as chicken rearing, bamboo made basket making, grocery shops, goats, cattle rearing, etc.
As a response to the Cyclone Amphan affected fishing communities, USAID extended generous support through ECOFISH II to 426 worst affected fishers’ households from the project fund of donor approved US$ 29,303. Supports were provided following the USAID’s guidelines and it was successfully completed in the current reporting quarter. As an update, the Amphan affected 226 HHs received cash supports on boat repairing (44), shelter repairing (100), seaweed and green mussel structures repairing (7), fish labors’ CfW (50 in BFDC fish landing center), and 200 HHs received small livestock and vegetable seeds.
To prevent the fishing communities from COVID-19 infections, USAID approved US$ 5,992 from project budget and implemented 5 activities following the USAID’s guidelines. Created mass awareness (focusing on social distancing, wearing masks, hand washing, etc.) among the fishing community through 25,000 leaflets and posters. Used loudspeakers in the large fish landing centers (10) to provide the protective massages, organized speeches through 100 local religious leaders (Imam/priest) during the prayer times in the mosque and temple, provided hand washing training, and distributed liquid soap to ,2000 fishers/fisherwomen. In addition, the team provided 10 disinfectant sprayers with chlorinated solution to 10 fish landing centers as a part of good practice that makes them aware of safety protocol and healthy life in the coming days.
Project MEL team has been conducting baseline survey at households and ecological level at ZOR and MPA sites by hiring a reputed consultancy firm which was in progress until September 30. The target sample is 1,200 households (600 from intervened and 600 from non-intervened HHs). Data collection and analysis will be fully completed by October and report will be generated by December 2020. During this reporting quarter, project has completed household census data and need assessment data collection from the selected households in ZOR and MPA areas.
As communication tools, the project produced awareness building leaflets/posters on COVID-19, megafauna and brood hilsa conservation. Developed 24 Facebook contents during this reporting quarter. Also prepared 18 press releases on major events, and organized wide media coverage. The ECOFISH II Communication team also organized virtual round table discussion with the daily Prothom Alo and organized talk show in DBC news as a part of national fish week celebration 2020. Op-ed published in leading national English dailies featured on various aspects on fish nutrition, fisheries/biodiversity conservation, and development issues.
The project personnel participated in policy making meetings regarding fixing of brood hilsa fishing ban on September 21 at the DoF in presence of the Secretary of MoFL. The meeting decided the ban period from October 14 to November 4 based on the scientific evidence of the ECOFISH II activity. Another first ever meeting on the management modality of the Hilsa Conservation and Development Fund (HCDF) was held on September 9 and the minutes were signed on September 13. The interest of the fund will be provided to the Community Fish Guards (CFGs) as honorarium for their duties during brood hilsa fishing ban 2020. Additional Secretary, DDs, DFO and high level of officials visited Haloishar Adorsho Matshya Gram (commemorating the Mujib Borsho 2020) in Naria, Shariatpur on September 23. The guests observed livelihood support programs and met fishers women group CSGs and expressed their satisfaction for the supports provided.