USAID_Enhanced Coastal Fisheries in Bangladesh phase 2 (EcoFish II)_Quarterly Report_January 1, 2021 – March 31, 2021
USAID’s ECOFISH II enhances community resilience through improving the savings, livelihoods and coping strategies of host fishing communities in the USAID Zone of Resilience (ZOR) and marginalized and extremely poor fisher folks in the MRE and the Nijhum Dwip MPA. This 1st quarterly progress report of Year 2 describes the accomplishments and achievements of ECOFISH II from January to March 2021 in all the ToOs. Activities in ZOR were implemented with the key partnerships of Shushilan, Chattogram Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (CVASU), and Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST). In addition, Falcon International Ltd has been working closely with the project to develop and expand seaweed, green mussel farming and creating market linkages for fishers’ livelihood improvement. In the MRE, Noakhali Science and Technology University (NSTU), Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University (BSMRAU) and Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University (SAU) are associated with the project implementation. In the Nijhum Dwip MPA, IUCN has been working along with the project teams. Activities on ecosystem health management, coastal biodiversity conservation and monitoring of coastal fisheries dynamics, targeted under the first sub-IR1 (Improved science outputs for decision-making), have been continued with satisfactory progress despite some hurdles from the pandemic. Five universities (BSMRAU, CVASU, NSTU, SAU and SUST) have played important roles in achieving the science outputs. In this quarter, BSMRAU conducted spatio-temporal analysis of water quality and the water quality identification index for the MPA and the Meghna river estuary through monitoring 12 water quality parameters at seven monitoring sites. To improve ecosystem health, collection of plastic and net materials from the Cox’s Bazar and Kuakata sea beaches were continued and about 300 kg of such materials were removed from the beaches. In partnership with CVASU, fish biodiversity through fish larvae assessment have been continued, and 12 families of fish larvae were identified and documented. The SAU investigated biological and environmental parameters possibly responsible for the special taste and flavor of certain eco-type of hilsa found in the Bishkhali river. ECOFISH II team have conducted several awareness building activities on catfish conservation in the lower Meghna region. As part of the assessment for the MPA delineation in the Teknaf-St. Martin’s Island area, SUST conducted a survey among fishers in the St. Martin’s Island which revealed that 85% of fishers are involved in the offshore fishing and the remaining 15% fishers are involved in nearshore fishing activities. Hilsa and other fish landing in the five major fish landing centers in ZOR were monitored. The highest 430 tons of hilsa was landed in February. Real-time digital catch monitoring by 30 trained Citizen Scientists, revealed that the catch per unit effort (CPUE) was the highest in January (165 kg/boat/day) in ZOR. Activities regarding the formation and strengthening of co-management institutions were continued in ZOR under the second Sub-IR1 (improved adaptive co-management and fisheries governance). In this quarter, 35 FGDs and 18 validation workshops were organized involving more than 1,000 fishers and other stakeholders. Total 22 Producers Groups (PG) were formed with 500 fisher women who are engaged in producing hygienic dried fish. For fisheries conservation, 100 FCGs were formed involving 3,000 beneficiaries in ZOR (2500) and MPA (500). To improve fisheries governance, 90 boat skipper were trained on biodiversity conservation and responsible fishing practice, and 20 CFGs have been engaged in ZOR to work with DoF in the ban periods. An international IUU consultant Dr. Pramŏd Ganapathiraju has been engaged who prepared IUU assessment methodology and IUU survey toolkit for data collection. In ZOR, the project introduced innovative AIGAs in the form of Blue Food production that includes seaweeds farming, green mussel farming, crab fattening and mushroom culture. In three sites 42 seaweed rope culture system and 30 net culture systems were established in ZOR. Total 21 green mussel culture systems were established in three sites in ZOR with the assistance of CVASU. Ten mushroom culture and 12 crab fattening units are continuing in Teknaf and Ukhiya with the assistance from Shushilan. Hygienic dried fish production is also another AIGA options for fishers’ women in for the improved income and nutrition. Activity team supported 3,800 kg fresh pelagic small fishes to 332 fisher women for dried fish production. ECOFISH II continued to support its beneficiary through community savings group (CSGs) activities with a particular focus on promoting livelihood improvement-oriented micro-entrepreneurship. Mobilized 29 CSGs in ZOR during reporting quarter and conducted 87 CSG meetings with 803 women members. Total saved money was BDT 210k during the reporting quarter (cumulative savings BDT 963k including matching fund). Eight CSGs are ready for getting matching fund in the next quarter. MEL team has analyzed the basic households’ information of fishing villages in the ZOR and MPA and selected 21 villages (ZOR -16, MPA- 5) for interventions in Year 2. The tools, protocol and questionnaire for the assessment of economic benefit of 400 HHs have been prepared. The tools, protocol and questionnaire for the baseline assessment of the Matshya Gram in Shariatpur and the end-line survey for the Matshya Gram in Bhola and Chandpur have been prepared and the data collection will be completed in the next quarter. As communication tools, the project produced awareness building leaflets/posters on COVID-19, megafauna and juvenile hilsa (Jatka) conservation. Developed 10 various Facebook contents during this reporting quarter. Twelve media coverage highlighting the project activities were published. Two Op-eds were published in leading national dailies featuring on various aspects on fish nutrition, fisheries/biodiversity conservation, and development issues. Pangas conservation leaflets/posters were circulated throughout the MRE; and biodiversity conservation billboards were demonstrated in the strategic location in both ZOR and MRE. ECOFISH Team Leader published an article on “Scientific food systems help biodiversity, livelihoods” in the SciDev.Net. He also participated in a virtual dialogue on "Sector-wide impact assessment (SWIA) of artisanal marine fisheries sector of Bangladesh" organized by Mansher Jonno Foundation (MJF) and the Daily Star. A blog on CSG written by Senior Gender Specialist of ECOFISH II has been published as a part of WorldFish's celebration of the International Women's Day 2021. ECOFISH II conducted the Gender Formative Research to understand the existing social and economic gender context in ZOR and MPA that will provide a strong background of gender context of the working area which will be helpful to identify gender gaps and to design context specific interventions to promote gender equity and women’s empowerment. A 3-day long training was organized in Bangladesh Agricultural University, Maymensingh to prepare the enumerators for quality data collection for the study during 11-13 March 2021. The project personnel participated in policymaking meetings with DoF related to MPA management plan and HFMAP and hilsa conservation during the ban periods. Project personnel actively participated in the district level ‘Co-management and Task Force committee meeting’ in the MRE regions. This committee meeting focused on Jatka conservation, brood hilsa protection and other fishing rules implementation activities. In addition, ECOFISH II working closely with DoF in the lower Meghna region to accelerate the catfish juvenile conservation activities.