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Contributing to Fisheries and Aquaculture Adaptation to Climate Change in Bangladesh

Development of a project concept on fisheries and aquaculture adaptation to climate change according to the Bangladesh NAPA
Project leader
Kevin Kamp
16 Jan 2012
31 Jul 2012
The Bangladeshi floodplains, which stretch out from the Padma, Jamuna and Meghna Rivers, are the lifeblood of communities throughout the densely-populated nation. Bangladesh has a turbulent tropical climate that brings annual monsoons as well as tropical cyclones that occasionally devastate the region. The increased variability and unpredictability of weather patterns threatens to make life on the Bangladeshi waterways more precarious than ever before.  The FAO-NAPA Climate Change Adaptation Concept Note Development project is a step towards increasing resilience and reducing the vulnerability of Bangladeshi fisheries and the aquaculture sector to climate change.
Over six months, the WorldFish Center and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are working closely with the Bangladesh Department of Fisheries (DoF) to develop an action plan to safeguard the region from the impacts of climate change. By developing a comprehensive strategy for adaptation in the form of funding proposals for submission to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the project is laying the groundwork for how best to prepare for climate change in Bangladesh. The resulting strategy will align with the national climate change strategies and the Bangladesh National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA).
The project will consult with key fisheries and environment groups including the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock (MoFL), local fisheries offices, the Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute (BFRI), the Ministry of Environment and national meteorological agencies. National non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will also be invited to contribute their expertise to the process. Communication with these key stakeholder groups will culminate in a two-day national workshop in the capital, Dhaka. By involving research institutions, local and national government agencies, and key NGOs operating in the field, the project is ensuring that the resulting strategies and funding proposals developed capture the best available knowledge and reflect the input of all key stakeholders.
The focus of the project is to identify practical solutions to the climate change challenges forecast for Bangladesh. Climate modeling predicts that an annual increase in monsoon rainfall will lead to more frequent are more intense flooding, storm surges and cyclones. For small scale fish farmers, this will result in a greater chance of valuable stock being washed out of culture ponds. Another significant threat is rising sea levels, which will change the coastal landscape and bring an influx of saline waters into the inland freshwater environment. As waterways become increasingly brackish, the carp, catfish and shrimp species familiar to the Bangladeshi fishers will struggle to survive in their new environment. With increased salinity, a decrease in water oxygen content is forecast. This will result in an escalation of stress levels, placing fish populations at a greater risk of disease. Higher water temperature will further exacerbate the environmental stresses the fish experience, as well as the subsequent potential losses to the fisheries and aquaculture industry.
The project will develop strategies to address seven specific objectives adapted from the NAPA. These are: reducing fish loss from increased flooding; promoting technologies and fish varieties suitable for flood-prone regions; developing coastal aquaculture practices for salt tolerant fish species; piloting climate-safe aquaculture in coastal regions; developing environmental monitoring and early warning systems; improving flood-preparedness in shrimp farming operations; and improving the sustainability of aquaculture under likely climate change scenarios. By addressing these objectives, the project will ensure that the fisheries industry in Bangladesh continues to strengthen its contribution to alleviating poverty and improving food security in the face of an uncertain future.
Developing a viable plan of action, as this project seeks to do, is a matter of urgency for Bangladesh. In a country where malnutrition threatens up to fifteen percent of the population and financial security is out of reach for many, the potential impact of climate change on small scale fishing and aquaculture operations could be devastating. Improving sustainability and resilience to the environmental changes that climate change heralds will ensure that the livelihoods of Bangladeshi communities reliant on its vast waterways and coastal regions are protected.