ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Quantifying improved fisheries productivity at fish passage rehabiliation sites in Lao PDR. (2016-2020)

Funding

Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) & USAID, $2.6M (initial funding of $1.8M plus an additional $800,000 in 2018)

Investigators/researchers

Dr Lee Baumgartner, Garry Thorncraft (National University of Laos), Dr Oudom Phonekhampheng (National University of Laos), Douangkham Singhanouvong (Living Aquatic Resources Research Centre), Dr Beth Cooper (UniSA),Tim Marsden (Australasian Fish Passage Services), Dr Nathan Ning, Dr Ana Horta & Dr John Conallin

Research Theme

Sustainable Development (International)

Description

Fishway project in Pak Peung village, LaoPDRA recent increase in water development projects throughout the Lower Mekong Basin threatens the long-term sustainability of productive capture fisheries. Capture fisheries are important as they are often the main source of protein and cash income for river communities. Rice is equally important and is actively farmed in throughout the Lower Mekong Basin. Most rice production occurs on floodplains because they contain fertile and productive soil. Floodplains are consequently being extensively developed with flood control and irrigation systems (regulators/low head barriers) to improve rice production and prevent crop inundation during seasonal flooding. Although it is advantageous for rice growing, this infrastructure blocks important migration pathways for fish seeking access to critical nursery and feeding habitats.

This project's aim is to generate information that will facilitate greater adoption of fishway technology in Mekong countries in order to rehabilitate declining capture fisheries. While previous projects Development of fish passage technology to increase fisheries production on floodplains in the lower Mekong Basin demonstrated that fishways can be effective for Mekong species, riparian agency staff and international scientists advised of the need to demonstrate and quantify impact thereby providing the scientific conservation and economic evidence required to conclusively substantiate broad-scale fisheries recovery.

The project has four broad objectives:

1: To evaluate colonisation of riverine species in seasonal wetlands
2: Quantify whether there is an annual increase in capture fishery production at sites where fishways have been constructed
3: Quantify, in social and economic terms, the options for constructing fishways at riverine infrastructure
4: To promote the uptake of project outputs

In 2018 the project received additional funding from ACIAR and USAID to scale-out the existing work in Laos to include four additional countries of the Lower Mekong Basin - Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. ILWS, together with the United States Department of Interior, will partner with agencies in each country to prioritise fish migration barriers for mitigation, construct a demonstration fishway in each country, and then research how well fish passage has been restored. The additional funding will provide for extensive GIS-based work in each country to determine the proportion of tributary streams being blocked by irrigation infrastructure which impacts on fish migration and productivity.

Outputs

The Lower Mekong Fish Passage Conference: Applying Innovation to Secure Fisheries, Nov. 14 - 17, 2016, Vientiane, Laos. (An additional $95,000 was provided by ACIAR to run the regional conference.)

A joint workshop with the US Department of the Interior was held in Thailand, (February 2018) where 60 scientists from Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand received training in how to map fish migration barriers.

Outcomes

The expected outcomes of this project are:

  • an understanding of the impact of fishway construction on the fish populations in wetlands
  • better knowledge of sustainable and low-cost fishway options for application in Laos and other countries in the Lower Mekong Basin
  • rigorous relative cost–benefit analysis of fishway construction versus other wetland rehabilitation options
  • a broad community communication strategy and stakeholder analysis to determine key agencies/community

Contact:
Dr Lee Baumgartner
Charles Sturt University Albury-Wodonga
email

May 2018