USAID Enhanced Coastal Fisheries in Bangladesh II (ECOFISH II) Quarterly Report (October 1, 2020 –December 31, 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 fourth quarterly progress report describes the accomplishments and achievements of ECOFISH II from October to December 2020 in all the ToOs. Activities in ZOR were 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.
Activities on ecosystem health management, coastal biodiversity conservation and monitoring of coastal fisheries dynamics, targeted under the first sub-IR1 (Improved science outputs for decision-making), have been completed successfully despite some hurdles from the pandemic. Four universities (BSMRAU, CVASU, NSTU, and SUST) have played important roles in achieving the science outputs. In this quarter, BSMRAU assessed species compositions of plankton in relation to seasonal nutrient concentrations in different locations of the lower Meghna River. To improve ecosystem health, collection of plastic and net materials from shore areas as well as from fishing vessels continued to reduce sea pollution. In partnership with CVASU, fish biodiversity and spawning season assessment through fish larvae assessment continued, and large number 1,128 fish larvae specimens 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 10 thousands of colorful leaflets and posters bearing various Pangas conservation messages among the stakeholders. In addition, a GIS map on locations of nursery grounds of Pangas juveniles produced. As part of the MPA delineation in the Teknaf-St. Martin’s Island area, biodiversity assessment focusing on seasonal variability, major commercial fish species diversity, and fishing zones were identified, and a biodiversity wheel showing the relative abundance of major species/groups has been developed in partnership with SUST.
Detailed size compositions of top 10 important fish species were monitored in BFDC landing center. The highest 426 tons of hilsa was landed in the BFDC Ghat in December followed by 209 tons in October and 148 tons November 2020. In addition, 20 Citizen Scientists, who were equipped with Smart Phone and Bangla ODK Apps, continued real-time on-board fish catch data collection.
The formation and strengthening of co-management institutions activities were continued in ZOR under the second Sub-IR1 (improved adaptive co-management and fisheries governance). ECOFISH II team and NGO partner Shushilan are jointly working at 15 villages in Teknaf and Ukhiya, and IUCN is working in 11 villages in MRE (MPA sites) to establish co-management building block. Two hundred eighty-one (281) training-meetings have been conducted involving 8,273 members for the formation of 96 (75 in ZOR and 21 in MRE) Fisheries Conservation Groups (FCGs). Other activities relevant to strengthening of the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) and improving fisheries governance are also in progress. A significant success in this quarter was to organize joint co-management and hilsa task force committee meetings with the department of fisheries at different levels including at the district level. These meetings specially focused on the compliance to the upcoming Brood Hilsa fishing 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 is stated.
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 (Perna viridis) farming, and crab fattening. All these activities progressed significantly involving 200 fishing hhs in seaweed, 100 beneficiaries in green mussel farming. During this quarter, 320 fisherwomen were supported for dry fish business in ZOR area while 20 fisherwomen given support to MPA area. Each woman produced on an average of 3-3.2 kg dry fish from 10 kg raw fish and average market value ranged from BDT 450-500/kg dry fish
ECOFISH-II team with the help of Shushilan and IUCN has provided 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). Shushilan, IUCN and ECOFISH II team distributed livelihood support to 1,563 hhs of which 1,228 hhs, 202 hhs, and 133 hhs have received support in ZOR, MPA and Haloishar Model Village, respectively. Among them, 23 hhs received 46 goats and 110 hhs received winter vegetable seeds (sweet gourd, gourd, coriander, red amaranth and bean) and 14 hhs aquaculture inputs as a part of AIGAs in Haloishar Adorsha Gram.
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, 177 CSGs (148 in MRE and 29 in ZOR) saved BDT 15.5 million (US$185,000) both in MRE and ZOR up to this reporting quarter. Sixty-one (61) women received soft loans in this quarter. With this monetary help, many of these CSG members started small-scale business, such as chicken rearing, bamboo made basket making, grocery shops, goats and cattle rearing, etc.
MEL team has analyzed the baseline survey data that was generated in the last quarter through engaging a survey firm. The analysis revealed huge baseline information at households and ecological level at ZOR, MRE and MPA sites focusing demography, livelihood, fisheries management, fish production, fisher’s source of income, resilience and coping strategies. The information has been preserved in repository database and will be used in evaluating the impacts in the successive years and after the end-line survey. A comprehensive survey was conducted to assess the impacts of 22-days brood hilsa fishing ban period on the socio-economic condition of 340 fishers under seven coastal districts of Bangladesh, during October-November, 2020.
As communication tools, the project produced awareness building leaflets/posters on COVID-19, megafauna and brood hilsa conservation. Developed 24 various Facebook contents during this reporting quarter. Seven media coverage highlighting the project activities were published. Three Op-eds were published in leading national dailies featured on various aspects on fish nutrition, fisheries/biodiversity conservation, and development issues. Pangas conservation leaflets/posters were circulated throughout the MRE; and biodiversity conservation billboards were demonstrated in the strategic location in both ZOR and MRE.
The project personnel participated in policymaking meetings regarding fixing of brood hilsa fishing ban where the Secretary of MoFL presided over the meeting. Project personnel actively participated in the district level ‘Co-management and Task Force committee meeting’ in the MRE regions. This committee meeting focused on Jatka conservation, brood hilsa protection and other fishing rules implementation activities. Director General, DoF and other high-level officials visited Haloishar Adorsho Matshya Gram (commemorating the Mujib Borsho 2020) in Naria, Shariatpur and inaugurated the development activities of the village. The guests observed livelihood support programs, met fisher women group CSGs, and expressed their satisfaction for the supports that ECOFISH II provided.