Exploitation and conservation of coastal and marine fisheries in Bangladesh: Do the fishery laws matter?
The present study analysed the major features of two important acts and an ordinance in Bangladesh that govern coastal and marine fishery exploitation and conservation. The problems with the implementation of these regulations were identified, and the level of compliance among fishers and reasons for their noncompliance were assessed. Based on two case studies on coastal and marine ecosystems, the findings revealed that the level of noncompliance is highly prevalent, particularly in hilsa sanctuaries in the Meghna River estuary. The study identified coastal poverty, the inadequate and improper distribution of incentives, insufficient logistic support, limited alternative occupations, political interference and a lack of awareness regarding fishery regulations as the major limitations in the implementation. The drawbacks of proper implementation and the noncompliance of fishery regulations lead to fishery degradation, directly affect the sustainability of the coastal and marine ecosystem of Bangladesh and may be barriers to achieving Goal 14 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Establishing a co-management mechanism for sanctuary management, creating economic opportunities outside of fishery sectors, declaring more protected areas in the coastal and marine ecosystem, enhancing logistic support to the enforcing agencies and building awareness are critical to improving the compliance level among fishers. Finally, the study submits that understanding the fishers’ reasons for compliance and noncompliance of the regulations is important for devising fishery policies through the consultation and engagement of stakeholders at all levels.