Freshwater fish provide the primary source of protein for more than 60 million residents of the Lower Mekong. Much of this resource derives not from the main stem of the Mekong River, but from the thousands of far smaller water bodies that traverse the region. Smaller water bodies are essential for fisheries production, providing breeding and nursery habitat for a large proportion of artisanal and commercial fisheries. These water bodies are becoming increasingly fragmented by weirs, dikes, dams, road prisms, and associated water management structures, mostly associated with agricultural development and local flood control activities. These development activities are providing productivity boosts for rice farmers, but are impacting fisheries production, and adversely impacting the communities reliant upon them for income and nutrition.
The November 2016 SIM-sponsored Lower Mekong Fish Passage Conference in Vientiane, Lao PDR focused on the challenges of addressing fish passage at planned Mekong River and major tributary hydropower facilities across the region (Myanmar, Viet Nam and Cambodia). However, a consistent theme voiced by the more than 160 conference participants from 15 nations was the need to expand the inventory, restoration prioritization, and restoration of the thousands of existing barriers that fragment fish populations and, by extension, threaten local food security, across the Region. There was also a demonstrated need to establish fish passage demonstration sites in other countries to build regional momentum that can help to recover fisheries productivity on a broader catchment scale.
Established techniques already exist to restore passage at many of these barriers, which were largely developed in Lao PDR. However, government agencies throughout the region have very limited technical capacity to conduct many of these activities. This Project supports the broader SIM effort to transfer knowledge to five Lower Mekong nations (Burma, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Viet Nam, and Thailand) regarding fish passage barrier inventory and prioritization processes, low head fish passage design and construction, and post-construction fish passage facility monitoring.
On August 15, 2013, DOI-International Technical Assistance Program (ITAP) entered into an Interagency Agreement (IAA) with USAID/RDMA, the stated purpose of which is for DOI-ITAP to “implement technical assistance activities that support Presidential Initiatives in global climate change (adaptation, clean energy, sustainable landscapes, and low emission development strategy), food security, and global health. DOI may also work in priority program areas of biodiversity, science and technology exchange, public-private partnerships, disaster assistance and risk reduction, economic growth, and good governance.”
DOI is a world leader in the management of natural resources. With its depth of applied knowledge, through the ITAP program, DOI provides technical assistance to countries around the globe in the areas of protected area management and conservation, fisheries, and water resource management. At the request of USAID/RDMA, DOI’s technical assistance enables government to government capacity building to SEAFDEC (an intergovernmental organization) and the ASEAN Member States (AMS).
The Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) is a non-profit intergovernmental organization established in 1967 to promote sustainable fisheries development in the Southeast Asian region. SEAFDEC currently comprises 11 Member Countries, namely: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam. For almost 50 years SEAFDEC has been implementing activities to support its Member Countries in Southeast Asia as follows;
1) exploration of marine fishery resources and its utilization,
2) conservation and management of aquatic species under international concern,
3) sustainable aquaculture development,
4) fisheries post-harvest and safety of fish and fishery products,
5) promoting management for sustainable fisheries and addressing emerging international fisheries-related issues.