Kochi: In a major development that will benefit the marine fisheries sector especially the livelihood of traditional fishermen, a decisive meeting of experts, diplomats and key officials representing the Bay of Bengal region have come up with a set of suggestions towards the healthy sustainable development of the blue economy in the sector.

Pointing out that all activities related to the ocean need to be managed holistically by protecting the ecosystem and the interests of people depending on it, the suggestions emphasise that social inclusion should be the main focus in the concept of the blue economy. “Blue economy is the integrated development of ocean economy with the principles of environmental sustainability, social inclusion, and improved livelihoods”, it says. The session on the blue economy was held in the ongoing international conference on security and prosperity in the Bay of Bengal organised by the Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR) in collaboration with Friedrich Naumann Foundation, South Asia in Kochi.

Fisheries sector in the Bay of Bengal region is grappling with scores of issues such as resource depletion, environmental degradation, threat of micro-plastic, climate change, and unsustainable fishing practices. Many more concerns are yet to be addressed prior, feel some of the marine experts. According to them, the region requires the urgent need of cooperation between the member nations, including bringing together all the stakeholders under one umbrella, for the betterment of the fisheries sector.

Attended by International diplomats, Government officials, academicians, experts and international media personalities from Germany, Thailand, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Maldives, the session also suggested that marine spatial planning is critical for delivering economic, social and environmental benefits by creating more stable and predictable conditions for investment and development by securing community benefits.

Talking at the meeting, Dr P Krishnan, Director of the Bay of Bengal Programme Inter-Governmental Organisation (BOBP-IGO) pointed out that the fishery comprised in the region comprises of poor but large artisanal fisheries sector. “Marine fisheries in BoB generates 9-10 billion US dollar and it is increasing”, he said.

According to him, discussion on the blue economy should focus on how to safeguard the interest of small and marginal fishers and farmers and to ensure economic freedom for women. “This should consider the issue of declining fish stock and conflict over space”, he added.

He further said that bringing all stakeholder in the sector in one umbrella is a big challenge while addressing the issues pertaining to the fisheries sector of the region. Citing the example of Maldives where pole and line fishing is the only existing fishing practice, Dr Abdul Hanan Waheed, the Chief Executive Officer of the Maldives Qualifications Authority said sustainability is key factor in the development of the blue sector.

Dr Mini Sekharan, Associate Professor in the School of Industrial Fisheries of the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT), said marine ecosystem services has to be given more thrust in researches. “A good marine governance model has to be framed where both industry, the scientific community and public authorities are involved”, she said.