ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Quantifying biophysical and community impacts of improved fish passage in Lao PDR, (2016-2020) 

ILWS Strategic Research Area

Improving Rural Livelihoods and Environments in Developing Countries


Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), $1,795,2240

Additional funding of $95,000 from ACIAR in October 2016 for the running of a regional Conference " The Lower Mekong Fish Passage Conference: Applying Innovation to Secure Fisheries," 14- 17 November in Vientiane.


Dr Lee Baumgartner, Garry Thorncraft (National University of Laos), Dr Oudom Phonekhampheng (National University of Laos), Douangkham Singhanouvong (Living Aquatic Resources Research Centre) and Dr Beth Cooper (UniSA)


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 all provinces of Lao PDR. 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.

The aim of this new work is to generate information that will facilitate greater adoption of fishway technology in Mekong countries in order to rehabilitate declining capture fisheries.Although previous projects (Development of fish passage technology to increase fisheries production on floodplains in the lower Mekong, Laos and Murray-Darling River Basins. Baumgartner, L., Millar, J.  & Robinson, W.  (2012-2015) (ACIAR, University of Lao, LARREC).Project Report) demonstrated that fishways can be effective for Mekong species, riparian agency staff and international scientists have advised, through workshops, that the scope of existing work should be expanded to demonstrate and quantify impact.

Thus the focus of this study is to provide 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 infrastructure4: To promote the uptake of project outputs


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

Dr Lee Baumgartner
Charles Sturt University Albury-Wodonga

October 2016