Cambodia, Lao PDR Discuss a Joint Fisheries Management Plan

Siem Reap, Cambodia, 13 February 2017, 22nd Feb 2017

Siem Reap, Cambodia, 13 February 2017 – Efforts to rebuild freshwater fish populations in the Mekong and Sekong River Basins are underway with plans in place to establish a joint fisheries management plan between Cambodia and Lao PDR.

As a part of the efforts, fisheries specialists from the two member countries of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) met in Siem Reap for two days from 13 February to discuss steps for preparing the joint plan for managing five fish species that migrate long distances to both rivers, are valuable for food security, and remain commercially important to both countries.

At the joint management planning meeting, organized under the MRC’s Transboundary Fisheries Management on the Mekong and Sekong Rivers Project, the two teams discussed core elements of the management plan, including management measures for each fish species.

Both countries will further develop and refine the draft plan through consultation workshops at national and local levels to access stakeholders’ views and needs.

“The joint management plan brings the two countries together to better manage our fisheries which will contribute to an increase of fish populations,” said Chanthachith Amphaychith, Deputy Director General of the Lao National Mekong Committee. 

The five-whitefish species, considered representative of the health of the freshwater fisheries system in the Mekong and Sekong rivers, include Pangasius larnaudiei, Pangasius conchophilus, Cirrhinus microlepis, Mekongina erythrospila, and Helicophagus waandersi.  

Fisheries experts from Cambodia and Lao PDR said during the meeting that the current catch of these species is dominated by small and medium sized fish, with a notable reduction in large sized fish in the catch.

The experts cited increasing fishing effort, illegal gear use, and habitat degradation as major threats to these freshwater fish species. The project has identified other issues that put pressure on fishery resources such as limited fisheries data and information and limited capacity and resources for fisheries management, and challenges in implementing the existing joint management mechanism.

“Through the joint management plan, we hope we can address these constraints and rebuild populations of these fish species, which will support food security, provide increased recreational fishing opportunities and bring back fresh fish resources in the Mekong and Sekong rivers,” said Chheng Phen, Acting Director of Cambodia’s Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. 

In addition to the joint fisheries management plan, the teams also moved towards identifying an appropriate joint coordination mechanism, including establishment of a joint fisheries management body to implement an action plan. The two countries will review existing transboundary coordination mechanisms and determine national data and information needs for the development of a joint mechanism paper.

The teams planned to meet again in early May to further develop these initiatives.

Cambodia and Lao PDR have been working together through the Mekong-Sekong fisheries project to improve fisheries management in four bordering provinces of the two countries – Stung Treng and Kratie of Cambodia and Champasak and Attapeu of Lao PDR connecting by the river basins. It is one of five transboundary projects funded by the World Bank under the MRC’s Integrated Water Resources Management Project.

Once completed in 2018, officials from Cambodia and Lao PDR said that achievements made under the project would be integrated into national plans of the two countries. They will also discuss how to implement the joint fisheries management plan to ensure the sustainability of transboundary fisheries. into the future.