ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Assessing fisheries mitigation measures at Xayaburi Dam in Lao PDR. (2018-2022)


Associate Professor Lee Baumgartner (CSU), Jarrod McPherson (CSU), Dr Nathan Ning (CSU), Karl Pomorin (KarlTek Pty Ltd), Dr Chris Barlow (Fish Matters IP), Douangkham Singhanouvong (Living Aquatic Resources Research Centre — LARReC), Khampheng Homsombath (LARReC), Dr Oudom Phonekhampheng (National University of Lao — NUOL), Garry Thorncraft (NUOL), Thanasak Phomisajiev (Xayaburi Power Company Limited — XPCL), Dr Michael Raeder (XPCL)


ACIAR, $1.4M

Research Theme(s)

Sustainable Development (International)


This project commenced in 2018 with initial funding of $320,000 from ACIAR.  It has been extended for a further three years, going from the “pilot phase” to the "implementation phase."

The world’s most productive inland fishery — the Lower Mekong Basin fishery — is currently under threat from the proposed development of eleven dams on the main stem of the Mekong River. Evidence from dam developments elsewhere throughout the world suggests that the Mekong dams will block many migratory fish species from accessing crucial feeding, spawning and nursery habitat, and thereby prevent them from completing their life cycles. The first of these dams, at Xayaburi, in Lao PDR, is due to become operational in October 2019.

A record level of investment has been put towards mitigating the impact of the Xayaburi Dam on fish passage, with the goal of setting the best-practice standard for future main stem dam developments.

The effectiveness of the Xayaburi fishway remains untested, and a strategic research program has been proposed to address this issue. Charles Sturt University will partner with KarlTek Pty Ltd, Xayaburi Power Company, National University of Lao, Living Aquatic Resources Research Centre and Fish Matters IP, to develop optimal techniques for assessing the performance of main stem dam fishways in the Lower Mekong Basin. The research team will then apply these techniques to evaluate fish passage at the site.

Currently the project is in its early stages. Much of the focus thus far has been on developing passive integrator transponder (PIT) tagging to determine configurations best suited to Mekong species, and on establishing boat electrofishing technology to PIT tag wild populations of fish at the Xayaburi Dam site. Research activities are planned to continue until 2022.


This research will develop a suite of monitoring techniques for assessing the performance of main stem dam fishways in the LMB; and then apply these newly developed techniques for quantifying the effectiveness of the Xayaburi Dam fishway.


This project will lead to a stronger understanding of fish ecology and mitigation approaches for restoring fish passage at dams throughout the LMB; and will ultimately provide a standard for monitoring and constructing other main stem dam fishways in the LMB.


Associate Professor Lee Baumgartner

CSU Albury-Wodonga

September 2019