Author(s): AbdullahAl Mamun
This thesis focuses on the value and policy implications of traditional ecological knowledge of fishers for restoration and conservation of fish habitats in Bangladesh where ecosystems are highly altered. About one-third of Bangladesh consists of floodplains. Efforts to “control” floodwaters have resulted in the modification of this waterscape and the alteration of wetland habitats. However, the main source of protein in Bangladesh is floodplain fisheries, and fish are important for the livelihoods of millions. Hence, environmentally favorable practices have evolved among fishers, and many of these pertain to fish habitat management. The study was undertaken with the purpose of identifying traditional fisheries knowledge relevant to restoring degraded floodplain fisheries, and carried out in Chakuso Lake (a beel system) in northcentral Bangladesh. The results indicate that there is a rich reservoir of traditional ecological knowledge held by fishers with respect to hydrology of floodplains and small lakes, habitat preferences of fish, role of aquatic vegetation as habitat components, and impacts of habitat disturbances due to human interventions in aquatic ecosystems. Fishers’ management practices and techniques include habitat management, as in the construction of fish sanctuaries; use of traditional kata (brush-pile) fishery systems that function as seasonal fish sanctuaries; maintenance of fish habitat connectivity; conservation of certain indigenous varieties of rice that seem to provide favorable fish habitat; use of traditional water treatment and fish disease control techniques; and the removal of old canals and water control structures that tend to fragment fish habitat and interfere with seasonal movements. As pragmatic solutions to habitat degradation problems, many of these locallyevolved practices and approaches are cost-effective, environmentally friendly and culturally acceptable. The research argues for a holistic approach to fish habitat management that ensures multi-level cooperation involving fishers and government managers, and builds on the knowledge and credibility of resource users.