FiTI report on Bangladesh reveals transparency holes

A lack of transparency is hampering Bangladesh’s ability to develop its fisheries sector, according to Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI).

A lack of transparency is hampering Bangladesh’s ability to develop its fisheries sector, according to the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI), a global multi-stakeholder partnership focused on increasing transparency and collaboration in marine fisheries management.

The Seychelles-based FiTI has been publishing annual country reports on its member-countries, with the intent of suggesting improvements in transparency and economic and environmental sustainability. Its first “Taking Stock” report on Bangladesh was published on 30 March, 2022..

Nancy Ng Ping Cheun, coordinator of FiTI’s Taking Stock program, told SeafoodSource the assessment found that for 18 out of 32 applicable transparency elements, the national authorities publish information online, and this includes for annual reports detailing fisheries management activities and updates on policy developments and legislative changes. Bangladesh's government also publishes a list of large-scale vessels authorized to apply for fishing licenses as well as data for catches within Bangladeshi waters by large-scale and small-scale fisheries.

However, said Cheun, public access to information has been assessed as “weak” for ten of the 18 elements “as information is only partially available online, and is also neither fully up to date nor easy to find.”

The assessment also found that there is no information published on 10 transparency elements - including fishery subsidies and payments made by distant-water fleets - although there is an indication that information is available to national authorities.

FiTI found significant gaps in the information made available by Bangladeshi authorities, Ping Chuen said. Bangladesh’s government doesn’t publish information regarding the revenue it receives from permits it issues to large-scale fishing vessels, or even a register of the operators or beneficial owners of vessels flying Bangladesh’s flag. Nor has it published any data or reports from the scientific and exploratory fishing permits it has granted, even though 39 licenses were issued for such ventures in 2020. There is no information available on Bangladesh’s marine diversity or reports on the stock status of any of Bangladesh’s fisheries

“Likewise, there is no information published publicly on fisheries subsidies, even though Bangladesh’s government provides multiple forms of direct and indirect subsidies to its marine fisheries sector,” Ping Cheun said.

The quality of what is actually published by the Bangladeshi government varies, according to Ping Cheun, with 10 out of 18 elements assessed [by FiTI] as having “weak public access,” with information only partially available online and not fully up to date.

“This clearly impedes the government’s ability to manage fisheries sustainably, as well as stakeholders’ ability to better understand their fisheries sector,” FiTI said. “However, it is acknowledged that this may be because Bangladesh’s national authorities are targeting different priorities or simply do not have the technical, financial, or human resources needed to produce such information.”

The Taking Stock assessment shows Bangladesh would clearly benefit from improved access to information and resources the FiTI provides, such an internationally recognized fisheries-management framework, Ping Cheun said.

“Also, the findings and recommendations from the assessment present a baseline upon which the national authorities could demonstrate improvements in marine fisheries transparency over time,” she said.

FiTI has presented the report to the relevant ministries and agencies in Bangladesh’s government, as well as the World Bank. However, even though a copy of the draft assessment report was sent to the national authorities to allow for more detailed input, FiTI said it did not receive feedback within its eight-week time period. Ping Cheun who said it is too early to tell whether Bangladesh’s national authorities are taking the report’s recommendations seriously. A request for comment sent by SeafoodSource to the Bangladesh Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock has not yet received a response as of 25 April.

“Given that the government of Bangladesh is committed to transparency and open government, it is hoped that the findings of this report will lead to a visible improvement of the online availability of fisheries information,” she said.

Other countries participating in FiTI include the SenegalSeychelles, Cabo Verde, Madagascar, São Tomé and PríncipeEcuador, and Mauritania. On Friday, 22 April, Mauritania submitted its second annual report, covering its 2019 and 2020 fiscal years. Its first report, covering 2018, was published in May 2021.

Photo courtesy of Pixparts/Shutterstock


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