GI status for hilsa fish

Dhaka,  Wed,  20 September 2017
Published : 13 Aug 2017, 21:09:14

GI status for hilsa fish

The recent recognition of hilsa as a geographical indication (GI) product of Bangladesh amply vindicates the necessity and logic of the government's enforcement of a ban on the fish's netting for a certain period every year. This restriction and another on fishing Jatka, immature hilsa, has surely helped in enhancing the eligibility of the recognition. According to WorldFish, an international research organisation, Bangladesh produces 65 per cent of hilsa out of the total haul of the fish worldwide. Of the 11 hilsa producing countries including India, Myanmar and a few in the Middle East, it is only Bangladesh where the hilsa yield has been on the increase for the last few years in a row.

The concept of GI status stems from the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement signed by almost all countries of the world. The agreement was the brainchild of a global conference organised by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in 1995.  GI status is given to products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation which have roots in that origin. Before hilsa, Bangladesh's Jamdani sari has received this recognition. The much-coveted recognition for hilsa, the national fish of the country, had to pass through an arduous process. It involved mainly the country's Department of Patents, Designs and Trademarks (DPDT) and the Department of Fisheries under the relevant ministry. As the rules warranted, the latter asked the DPDT for taking measures in order to register hilsa as a GI product of Bangladesh. In accordance with the formalities, DPDT published a deeply researched paper elaborating on the history of hilsa and its age-old indigenousness to Bangladesh, and stressing the country's eligibility for the recognition. As no objection to the claim was raised by any country in a two-month period, Bangladesh got the GI recognition as the deadline for objections ended on July 31. Upon receiving the GI certificate from DPDT, the fisheries department is expected to swing into action and request the hilsa-importing countries to register the fish as the GI product of Bangladesh.

Apart from adding to the array of the country's bountiful resources, natural and man-made, the recognition of hilsa as a GI product of Bangladesh has opened a vista of economic benefits. It is also expected to bring about positive changes to the livelihood and trade operations of the people involved in catching and marketing the fish. This upbeat turn will, presumably, be prompted by the sharp increase in the demand of hilsa as an export product. The traditionally hand-to-mouth fishing communities, too, may now hope for better days with the rise in the fish's demand. As a corollary, a fall in the price of hilsa in retail market may ease the consumers' access to the normally elusive fish.

Hilsa has been available in the country's 100 rivers since time immemorial. But at present their concentrations are found in the 194-kilometre (km) area around the offshore Kalichar Island and the 125 km area near the Meghna's Dhalchar point. Nearly 500,000 people are directly involved in hilsa fishing in forty districts of the country. The nation receives 10 per cent of its fish resources from hilsa, which contributes to the gross domestic product by 1.0 per cent. With the government focus now expected to be intensified on hilsa in its post-GI phase, the prestigious tag is set to largely expand its export market. Hilsa's recognition as a GI product is, therefore, a national achievement.
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
Published by the Editor for International Publications Limited from Tropicana Tower (4th floor), 45, Topkhana Road, GPO Box : 2526 Dhaka- 1000 and printed by him from City Publishing House Ltd., 1 RK Mission Road, Dhaka-1000.
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