Bangladesh takes major step to protect endangered sharks and rays
Despite progress in management efforts in recent years for elasmobranchs (sharks and their relatives), many populations still face significant threats and continue to decline. Overfishing and fishing bycatch is known to be the main threat to endangered elasmobranchs worldwide and is a hot topic of conversation in Bangladesh. A small country in South Asia, it has proven to offer ideal habitats for these animals with nearly a hundred confirmed species, including sawfish, river sharks, manta rays, whale sharks, etc. However, this global hotspot turned out to be a “major contributor to the catch and trade of sharks and rays in the Bay of Bengal region. “According to official government statistics, up to two thousand tons of dried shark fins are exported from Bangladesh each year, bringing in over US $ 1 million in tax revenue.
Which means that before actually discovering the biodiversity found here, humans could wipe it out. Fortunately, the government of Bangladesh has taken important steps to improve the protection of these endangered sharks and rays by updating the list of species and groups of species under the Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act, 2012. ” This updated list, prepared by the Forestry Department in consultation with the Fisheries Department and national and international experts, and with technical support from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), incorporates new information on sharks and rays at the Bangladesh and builds on the country’s international, regional and constitutional commitment to protect endangered marine species, wildlife and their habitats, ”says forest conservator Mollah Rezaul Karim of the Wildlife and Nature Conservation Circle.
The new amendments impose the strict protection of eight genera and 23 species of sharks and rays, while allowing the sustainable exploitation, consumption and trade of one genus and 29 species if their capture is found to be non-detrimental to them. wild populations. Chief Conservator of Forests, Mr. Md. Amir Hosain Chowdhury, explains: “More than half of the 116 species of sharks and rays confirmed or suspected to be present in Bangladesh are threatened with extinction. This amendment empowers the Forestry Department and other law enforcement agencies to be proactive in protecting some of the world’s most endangered marine wildlife, while providing a framework for the sustainable use of non-species. threatened for the benefit of local fishing communities. “
These are not the only steps the government of Bangladesh has taken recently. co-sponsor proposals for the improvement of trade regulations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES). “The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) regulates international trade in sharks and rays. The convention prohibits trade in three species of sawfish still present in Bangladesh, ”said ASM Jahir Uddin Akon, director of the Department of Forestry’s Wildlife Crime Unit. “The convention also requires an official permit from the Forestry Department to export 25 other species of sharks and rays found in Bangladesh. These permits can only be issued if there is strong evidence that their trade will not harm wild populations. On top of that, two marine protected areas (MPAs) that protect priority habitat for threatened sharks and rays have been established and plans for the adaptation of a spatial monitoring and reporting tool (CLEVER) to combat illegal fishing are underway.
“This improved legislation is a critical step towards reducing the risk of shark and ray extinction in the Bay of Bengal,” said Dr Md. Sharif Uddin, Director (Navy) of the Fisheries Department. “Enforcement of these regulations must go hand in hand with promoting the release of protected species and improving our understanding of the ecological benefits of sustainable fishing. If fishermen, traders and consumers understand that by protecting endangered sharks and rays, they also safeguard their livelihoods and food security, Bangladesh can reverse the trend from overexploitation to sustainable conservation management.