Quantifying biophysical and community impacts of improved fish passage in Lao PDR and Myanmar

L.J. Baumgartner, Peter Collier, John Conallin, Nathan Ning, Wayne Robinson, Bethany Cooper, Lin Crase, Khampheng Homsombath, Douangkham Singhanouvong, Oudom Phonekhampeng, Garry Thorncraft, Nyunt Win, Nyi Htun, Aye Myint Swe, Zau Lunn, Tim Marsden

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Abstract

Rising demand for irrigated agriculture and electricity has led to the widespread construction of dams and other infrastructure on many large tropical river-floodplain systems around the globe. Such infrastructure poses a major threat to the diverse and productive fisheries that occur in tropical river-floodplain systems, as it prevents access to vital feeding, spawning, and nursery habitat and subsequently constrains many species from completing their life cycles. The impacts of infrastructure development are of particular concern on the Mekong River, wherein lies the world’s most productive inland fishery.
The current project progresses a program of work, which started as a proof-of-concept study (FIS/2006/183), before developing into a more comprehensive research and implementation phase (FIS/2009/041) and eventually into a monitoring/evaluation phase. The principal objective of this project was to assess whether fish pass technology in Mekong countries can be effectively applied to restore diminishing fisheries and to provide a mechanism for scale-out to Mekong countries and donor-funded programs.
This project has greatly enhanced fish passage restoration efforts in the Lower Mekong Basin. The benefits to fishery production are expected to be realised in terms of food security and livelihood improvements throughout the region over the coming years.
The early proof-of-concept studies (FIS/2006/183 and FIS/2009/041) led to the construction of the first ‘test’ fish pass on the Mekong River, at Pak Peung village in Lao PDR. FIS/2014/041 Variation 3 has built upon these studies by (1) monitoring and evaluating the socio-economic and ecological impacts of the Pak Peung fish pass, and (2) applying the new knowledge to inform the design and operation of other fish passes throughout South East Asia. Indeed, FIS/2014/041 Variation 3 has resulted in widespread knowledge uptake by high level government officials at many strategic workshops and other meetings; and millions of dollars of investment in fish passage research and implementation by agencies such as the Asian Development Bank, World Bank and USAID. Since the Pak Peung fish pass was built, the list of constructed or planned fish passes has been expanded to (so far) include 19 in Lao PDR, five in Cambodia, one in Myanmar, two in Thailand, and one in Vietnam. Other highlights have included the project team co-hosting the 2016 Lower Mekong Fish Passage and Fish Passage 2018 conferences; co-hosting four international fish passage masterclasses to train practitioners from Myanmar, Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam; and being awarded the internationally acclaimed “Distinguished Project Award” at the Fish Passage 2018 conference. The broader program of work has also resulted in a myriad of other scientific outputs, including 21 international journal papers, 24 reports, and 49 international conference papers.
The growing consideration of and investment into fish passage technologies throughout South East Asia is a strong testament to both the success of this program of work and what can be achieved when an integrated and long-term approach is applied to fish passage restoration efforts. The next phase of the work will focus on maximising the scale-out of fish passage restoration efforts throughout South East Asia by determining the impediments and drivers to achieving such outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCanberra, ACT
PublisherAustralian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)
Commissioning bodyAustralian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)
Number of pages86
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sep 2021

Grant Number

  • FIS/2014/041

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