Efforts to conserving aquatic resources in the Sundarbans

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is collaborating with the Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh to develop a new aquatics project in the Sundarbans – the World’s largest mangrove forest – investigating the poorly understood fishieres in the region.

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The Sundarbans is the largest, and one of the most biodiverse mangrove forests in the World, internationally recognized under the Ramsar and UNESCO World Heritage conventions. Crucially, it is one of the final remaining strongholds for the endangered Royal Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris). Approximately 60% of this majestic forest is found in Bangladesh, covering some 6,017km2.

Hundreds of thousands of people reside in fishing villages that that encircle the forest. These communities are highly dependent, and bestow an overwhelming pressure, upon the forest’s assortment of now rapidly diminishing aquatic resources, such as finfish, shrimp and crabs. The Sundarbans is an astonishingly under-studied region, and little is known about the condition and sustainability of its fisheries.

Following six-months of scoping during 2011, a new monitoring program will commence this Bangladesh Fishery
year, to collect baseline information on habitat and aquatic resources. This will involve analysing the ecological impact of different fishing gears; mapping fishing grounds using GPS; and gauging levels of stakeholder buy-in towards existing fishing regulations.

It is hoped that the research will deliver the information necessary to guide scientific management recommendations for sustainable fishing practices, for the benefit of the ecosystem and the livelihoods of those who rely upon it. This may include zoning fishing activities, and devising more effective fishing regulations.

ZSL is a charity devoted to the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats.