Published: 18/04/2016

One thousand lifejackets have been donated to Bangladesh fishermen following work done by the IMRF’s Asia-Pacific Regional Centre (APRC).

The initiative began with an approach to the IMRF from the Tropical Dolphin Research Foundation. A severe tropical storm in September 2015 capsized many fishing boats, with considerable loss of life. Mr Mahmud Rahman, a dolphin ecologist with the Foundation, had been working with fishermen in the region to help him understand more about the marine life offshore. He understood the impact that lifejackets could have had in the storm, and decided to find out what could be done for the villages hardest hit.

Jennifer Lewis, the Foundation’s Director, says: “We sent an email to the IMRF to see what type of help could be provided. What resulted was an amazing collaboration between charities, government organisations and commercial suppliers.”

Along with IMRF member organisation Shanghai Sun Glory Marine Co Ltd and the Bangladesh Coast Guard, the APRC team arranged for 1000 lifejackets to be delivered to the Bangladesh Navy ships Prottoy and Shandhinota, then docked in the Chinese city of Qidong, Jiangsu Province. The Navy very kindly transported the lifejackets to Bangladesh, where their distribution was coordinated by the Coast Guard. It was agreed that the lifejackets would be shared across the south east, south and south west coastal areas, with the Coast Guard distributing 300 in Moheshkhali, Shahpuri and Kutubdia, and another 300 in Pathorghata.

Mr Rahman was instrumental in managing the distribution of the remaining 400 from the Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute at Bagarhat. A small ceremony was held, attended by 45 local fishermen, and 21 boats were provided with 14 jackets each. Vessel checks will be made by local Coast Guard officers to ensure the jackets are maintained on the vessels.

“This is a great example of cooperation between charities, a commercial company and the military to provide real support for the fishermen of Bangladesh,” says Bruce Reid, IMRF CEO. “The country has one of the highest rates of drowning in the world and their fishermen risk their lives on a daily basis.

“We hope to be able to offer more support in the future.”

“We realize that it may seem a leap from protecting dolphins,” adds Dr Lewis, “But to us conservation also involves protecting humans that share this environment with the dolphins. Doing this, we then have a better chance to preserve all of the nature we love.”

The IMRF APRC is looking at other possible ways in which assistance that could be provided to help improve the safety of fishermen. “It is estimated that 25,000 artisanal fishermen die every year around the world so we have a responsibility to help find solutions to this challenge”, says Bruce.

“This exercise has highlighted that with the right approach, the right people and a common goal much can be achieved. We like to think that safe fishermen make great grandparents, so even one life saved makes a huge difference.”