Exploring Opportunities For Sustainable Growth In Bangladesh’s Fisheries Sector

| March 29, 2023

Fisheries and aquaculture play a key role in the economy of Bangladesh directly and indirectly by reducing poverty, improving living standards, and contributing to food security, and employment. The “World Fisheries and Aquaculture report (SOFIA) 2022” of FAO stated that Bangladesh has become one of the top fish producers of inland water capture fisheries globally (1). In 2020, Bangladesh produced 1.25 million tons of captured fish (inland), which represented 11% of the total global production. India and China have topped the rank with 16% and 13% respectively. Bangladesh was very close to being the second-largest inland water capture fish producer in the world. This achievement denotes that the country is self-sufficient in the fishery sector. Recently, Bangladesh felt the effects of a global economic emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic. A sharp decline in local demand and a financial crisis worsened the country’s overall economic problem. In spite of these challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, Bangladesh’s production of captured fish increased by 8%, from 1.16 million tons in 2018 to 1.25 million tons in 2020, according to the report. This helped Bangladesh maintain its position as the third-largest producer of inland water captured fish in the world.

Marine sector in Bangladesh

The fisheries sector of Bangladesh is divided into three sub-groups- inland culture, inland capture, and marine capture according to the Department of Fisheries (DoF). Bangladesh has limited development of marine capture compared to inland water capture and aquaculture (inland culture) production. In the case of marine capture production, Bangladesh produced 0.67 million tons in 2020 and contributed only 1% to the total world marine production, which is far behind the other top-producing countries like China (15%), Indonesia (8%), and Peru (7%) (1). On the other hand, in the case of per capita marine capture, Bangladesh is far below that of the top three countries along with some other South and Southeast countries. As a matter of fact, among major producing nations including Bangladesh that are bestowed with significant waterbodies or river basins, inland water captures are more concentrated than marine captures. For many small communities, capture from inland waters serves as a significant source of food. Marine capture per capita consumption and population of Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Bangladesh have been shown in the below figure. From the figure, it is visible that the marine capture per capita consumption of Bangladesh is very low.

Performance of the fisheries industry

Regardless of the success of inland capture production, there are some issues like habitat degradation, urbanization, industrialization, and food security for the growing population that Bangladesh’s fisheries industry is experiencing. Despite the twin shocks from Covid-19 and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate in the fiscal year 2022 (FY22) was 7.10% which is satisfactory, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) data (2). This is a positive indication for the country’s economy, indicating that it has overcome the crisis to some extent. Nevertheless, the agriculture and fisheries sectors appear to have lost ground in terms of GDP share in the economy from FY21 to FY22. A decrease in the share of GDP implies that, while these sectors are growing in absolute terms, they are not growing at the same rate as other sectors of the economy. The service sector accounted for the greatest share of GDP, indicating that it is driving the economy’s overall growth. The manufacturing industry is growing faster than agriculture and fisheries, contributing to the decline in their share of GDP.

Photo credit: Aljazeera

Bangladesh’s fisheries industry has expanded in the last year. The sector increased in size from Tk 918 billion in FY21 to Tk 990 billion in FY22, representing a 7.8% growth rate (4). This expansion can be attributed to a variety of factors, including increased demand for seafood products, advancements in fishing technology and efficiency, and favorable market conditions. While the increased fishing activity can be beneficial to the overall economy, there may be concerns about the sustainability and environmental impact of increased fishing activity. Policymakers and industry leaders need to ensure that the fisheries sector’s long-term growth is sustainable.

What can be done to ensure sustainability in our fisheries industry?

The pond aquaculture sector in Bangladesh is diverse, with a range of different producers growing various species of fish. The sector includes family-run plots as well as larger operations. This diversity can be an advantage in terms of supporting the resilience of the sector. External factors pose a significant risk to the aquaculture sector. Natural disasters such as floods and cyclones can severely damage fish farms and result in production losses. Climate change is also a source of concern, as rising temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns may have an impact on water availability and fishery productivity. Pollution and overfishing are two examples of man-made issues that can have a negative impact on overall fish productivity. Still, there is plenty of room for fish producers to make the sector less risky and more efficient.

Increasing productivity in in-land water capture

The data presented by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) demonstrates the difference in fishing productivity between ponds and rivers. Pond fish productivity increased from 4964 kg/Ha in FY19 to 5059 kg/Ha in FY20, indicating that farmers have room to improve the sector’s efficiency. In contrast, river fishing productivity was much lower in FY20, at 389 kg/Ha (3). It is worth noting that ponds account for the majority of Bangladesh’s fisheries production, rather than rivers, beel, floodplains, and baor. This suggests that other sub-sectors of the fisheries industry may have opportunities to increase productivity. The government should encourage the private sector to use river resources for fish production or culture.

Photo credit: BBC

Prioritizing rivers for fish production

Bangladesh is said to be a riverine country with up to 800 rivers that intersect the country to form the most extensive river network in the entire world (4). Nevertheless, the productivity of rivers is quite low considering the spread of the rivers.  If the river’s resources are given importance, the pressure on the pond will be reduced. The fish producers can use the advantage of the density of the rivers.  It is very unfortunate that in recent years, the rivers of Bangladesh are dying up and experiencing terrible conditions as a result of contamination and unauthorized development. In this regard, agricultural research institutions along with the support of our government should conduct research on these issues and take steps to prevent rivers from drying up. And the Bangladeshi government can divide the rights of rivers among the private sectors for fish culture. As long as the share of rivers is under the private sector, the polluters won’t have the legal right to contaminate their property. Eventually, there would be a possibility to reduce river pollution. Moreover, research can help identify ways to improve fishing practices and make them more sustainable. This can include studying fish populations, developing new fishing gear and techniques, and exploring ways to reduce waste and bycatch. Various modern technologies and systems can be used for fish production in open water capture like rivers. For instance, China has progressively concentrated on ERT technology since the 1990s. The advantages of using Ecological Restoration Technologies (ERTs) in rivers include the recovery of ecosystems and biodiversity as well as the development of healthy rivers (5). Enhancing habitat and biodiversity is important for improving the growth and reproduction of fish. Our neighboring country, India has developed pollution abatement, e-flow estimation, etc.  The two main types of waste that pollute waterways are industrial and household waste. Installation of Sewage Treatment Plants (STP) and Effluent Treatment Plants (ETP) in major cities and towns with rivers is crucial for waste minimization. A change in a river’s natural flow pattern can disrupt the ecosystem of the entire river, leading to the collapse of riverine fisheries and fish diversity. Thus, accurate estimation of the river’s e-flow requirements is essential for sustainable fisheries management. In addition to these, India has adopted some other advanced technologies for inland open water fisheries such as an Electronic Data Acquisition System, Biocontrol of Biofouling in cages, and Low-cost floating fish feed for cage culture (6). Except for these strategies, artificial intelligence (AI) can be a smart solution for improving fishing practices in rivers. The AI technique can continuously monitor farm operations and favors real-time culture analysis. It can assist farmers with optimizing feed, water quality regulation, disease prediction, and management, and providing advice.

Future directions

Increasing exports of fisheries products such as frozen fish, shrimp, dried fish, and so on can undoubtedly help Bangladesh earn more foreign revenue and boost the fisheries sector’s growth. Trade fairs can be organized to increase market penetration and promote Bangladeshi fisheries products in global markets. Furthermore, training programs in advanced fish production technology can help improve the sector’s productivity and efficiency. Training in innovative farming techniques, sustainable practices, and the use of modern equipment and technologies can be included. It can also assist farmers in reducing their reliance on external inputs such as feed and fertilizer, which can help reduce production costs and increase profitability. Thus, by taking these steps, Bangladesh’s fisheries industry can become more sustainable, which can help ensure the industry’s long-term viability. It can also protect the environment and support the livelihoods of those who depend on the fisheries sector.


  1. FAO (2022). The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022. In The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022. FAO. https://doi.org/10.4060/cc0461en
  2. BBS. (2023). Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Bangladesh 2021-22. Retrieved from http://bbs.portal.gov.bd/sites/default/files/files/bbs.portal.gov.bd/page/057b0f3b_a9e8_4fde_b3a6_6daec3853586/2023-02-09-04-30-cf85a501b83a0f5f32bcec85f1f5534f.pdf
  3. BBS. (2022). Yearbook of Agricultural Statistics 2021. Retrieved from http://www.bbs.gov.bd/site/page/3e838eb6-30a2-4709-be85-40484b0c16c6/-
  4. BTB. (2020). Bangladesh A Land of Rivers. Bangladesh Tourism Board. Retrieved from https://tourismboard.portal.gov.bd/sites/default/files/files/tourismboard.portal.gov.bd/page/a3c70b40_263e_4d8c_9c9a_1cc0f551b041/2020-09-30-17-49-581fb3417aa0a4510515e740cabe9f83.pdf
  5. Li, P., Li, D., Sun, X., Chu, Z., Xia, T., & Zheng, B. (2022). Application of Ecological Restoration Technologies for the Improvement of Biodiversity and Ecosystem in the River. Water 2022, Vol. 14, Page 1402, 14(9), 1402. https://doi.org/10.3390/W14091402
  6. Das, B. K., & Sarkar, U. K. (2020). Inland open water fisheries potential in India. Aqua Post. Retrieved from http://www.aquapost.in/inland-open-water-fisheries-potential-in-india/

This article is written by Noshin Tasnim Zaman, currently working as Research Officer at Unnayan Shamannay. For further clarifications, contact here: info@unsy.org