Managing waters across borders: Bangladesh and India join efforts for sustainable river fisheries

The International Transboundary Policy Dialogue on Hilsa Fisheries Management between Bangladesh and India successfully concluded a clear set of policy recommendations to conserve the Hilsa fisheries in both countries.

Local people fishing in Tanguar Hoar, north-east Bangladesh

Organized by IUCN and the Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute (CIFRI), the policy dialogue urged to maintain environmental flows of freshwater in estuaries and mangrove ecosystems for sustainable Hilsa fisheries.

Hilsa (also called Ilish) is a popular fish eaten among the population of the sub-continent, it is the most popular fish with Bengalis and Oriyas and the national fish of Bangladesh. A tropical fish, it can survive in both fresh and salt water ecosystems and therefore particularly prevalent in delta regions.

The Transboundary River Dialogue is part of IUCN’s project Ecosystems for Life: A Bangladesh-India Initiative. A range of stakeholders including the Department of Fisheries, Government of West Bengal, the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock Bangladesh, attended the meeting, as well as representatives from fishing communities, researchers, journalists and private sector representatives from Bangladesh and India.

The recommendations include the proposal for an annual ban on Hilsa fishing during the same period of the year in both countries to protect the juvenile and brood fish. A thorough stock assessment of marine and freshwater Hilsa at regular intervals using a common methodology was identified as an important need. There was wide agreement by the stakeholders present on the Dialogue’s recommendations, which are included in a draft plan of action submitted to the governments of both countries for their consideration and adoption.

The Hilsa population in both Bangladesh and India is under immense pressure from the fisheries sector. The species would benefit from coordinated and collective policy development, conservation strategies and joint implementation in both countries”, said Md. Zafar Iqbal Siddique, Member of Parliament, Bangladesh.

A recent study titled ‘The importance of migratory and spawning patterns for the conservation of Hilsa in Bangladesh and India’ was presented at the Dialogue. It highlighted a set of recommendations to conserve the Hilsa fisheries. Funded by the Ecosystems for Life project, the research was conducted by a transboundary joint research team following an agreed common methodology that focused on the migration route of Hilsa with emphasis on the Ganges river system.

The study and the dialogue have produced a set of policy options that both countries could adopt for sustainable management of Hilsa fisheries. The stakeholders, including the research community, conservationists and representatives from fishing associations, suggested that the recommendations from the study should be discussed at a high level policy forum of both countries. This has now resulted in a firm basis for an effective strategy for Hilsa conservation, which has the endorsement of both policymakers, practitioners and the fishing communities in India and Bangladesh,” said Mr Ganesh Pangare, Head Water Programme IUCN Asia.

'Ecosystems for Life: A Bangladesh-India' Initiative is a civil society led multi-stakeholder dialogue process to promote better understanding of the management of natural resources in the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna region. The project works to develop a shared vision and understanding of food, livelihood and water security issues through collaborative research and studies, creation of a knowledge hub, developing research-based policy options, and enhancing the capacity of civil society stakeholders to participate in the management of natural resources.

The Initiative is implemented by IUCN Country Offices in Bangladesh and India, with support from the Netherlands’ Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS) and the IUCN Asia Regional Office.

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact: AJM Zobaidur Rahman Soeb, Communications Officer, Ecosystems for Life: A Bangladesh-India Initiative,  IUCN Bangladesh Country Office, Mobile: +880 1670 067 268, Email:




Work area: 
Social Policy
Environmental Law
Go to top