Pakse, Lao PDR, 29 June 2018 – In order to cement the four-year-long bilateral efforts to address cross-border fisheries issues along the Cambodia-Laos border, the two countries have agreed to formalise a bilateral fisheries management body that would oversee collaborative activities to curb illegal fishing practices and increase fish stock in the Mekong-Sekong basin.

The discussions took place in Pakse today at a workshop where fisheries experts from the two countries gathered to finalise a joint transboundary fisheries management plan and its implementation framework that address common fisheries issues such as illegal gear use and lack of law enforcement. This is the final stage of the Mekong-Sekong rivers transboundary fisheries management project between the two countries, which the Mekong River Commission has supported since 2014.

People in the bordering provinces in the Mekong-Sekong basin predominantly rely on fisheries to make a living, but in recent years they face a severe decline in fish catch. They remain concerned about illegal fishing gear use and illegal fishing activities in conservation zones as well as lack of law enforcement to catch those illegal fishers.

In order to address those issues, both countries have agreed to work together, aiming for a 10 % increase of fish stock in the basin by 2021 by curbing illegal fishing activities. They have drafted the management plan through the project. It specifies concrete measures and actions, including awareness raising of fisheries regulations, monitoring of the use of illegal fishing gear such as Lee Trap and illegal fishing activities in conservation pools near the border, detailed sanctions and penalties against those illegal activities, and official mechanisms of exchanging those data between the two sides for further actions. Both parties have also designed a bilateral cooperation framework to establish a multi-layered joint fisheries management body to implement the plan.

During the workshop, they discussed further details of roles, responsibilities and administrative communication channels of the management body. They also agreed to form the management body with representatives of the provincial border management committee and other relevant offices from the district, community and village levels, who support the execution of the management plan. They further sought to formalise the cooperation mechanism with a memorandum of understanding.

“Today’s meeting was very successful with concrete outcomes in the fisheries management plan. It will speed up the completion of this project,” said Mr Chanthanet Boualapha, Secretary-General of the Lao National Mekong Committee, who chaired the workshop. “It is a big step in the area of transboundary fisheries management in the bordering provinces. I am very pleased to see this cooperation.”

The fisheries project is one of the five bilateral projects under the MRC’s Mekong Integrated Water Resources Management Project (M-IWRMP), which promotes a rule-based multi-sectoral approach in water resources management and development. The fisheries project is funded by the World Bank and slated for completion by the end of 2018.

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Caption: Fisheries experts from Cambodia and Lao PDR discuss details of a bilateral framework on transboundary fisheries management over the Mekong – Sekong basin along the border.