Officials from the National Mekong Committees and fisheries authorities of Lao PDR and Cambodia have recently reaffirmed their commitment to enhance trans-boundary cooperation for the improved management of fisheries in the bordering provinces of the two countries.
There affirmation came during a recent visit exchange to the Mekong and Xekong rivers, connecting the provinces of Champassak and Attapeu of Lao PDR with the provinces of Stung Treng and Kratie of Cambodia.
“We have the same problems and concerns in managing our fishery resources that are being threatened by human activities and infrastructure development,” said Deputy Secretary General of the Cambodia National Mekong Committee Watt Botkosal. “Promoting closer cooperation is crucial for the two countries to effectively address these issues.”
During the first joint field trip, organized under the MRC’s Mekong and Xekong Rivers Fisheries Management Project, the two counterparts visited a fish conservation zone in Attapeu and a fisheries community in Stung Treng where they learnt from each other on how communities manage fishery resources. They also verified trans-boundary fishery issues in the Mekong and Xekong rivers for a joint comprehensive report as a basis of establishing a joint management plan.
Originating in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, the Xekong River flows through Lao PDR and then enters Cambodia to join the mighty Mekong River. It is one of the largest Mekong tributaries, providing corridors for fish movement and linking spawning habitats in the upstream with downstream feeding habitats.
The two rivers form a trans-boundary life-source for millions of Cambodian and Lao people who rely heavily on the watershed for subsistence.
Yet, the health of local communities and the ecosystems of the rivers in both countries are being threatened by increasing fishing efforts, illegal fishing activities, the deterioration of the watershed, an increase of flash floods and severe droughts, and infrastructure development, including hydropower schemes.
The MRC’s Mekong and Xekong Fisheries Project is assisting the governments of Cambodia and Lao PDR to improve the management of inland fisheries and conserve biodiversity of related ecosystems and species in the Mekong and Xekong rivers through cross-border cooperation, discussions and other joint activities.
It is one of the five bilateral projects funded by the World Bank under the MRC’s Integrated Water Resources Management Project which facilitates trans-boundary dialogue to promote cooperation for better management of water resources.
“The project sets the stage for action that brings Cambodia and Lao PDR to work together for their natural resources. We hope that the collective action and broad cooperation will optimize management of the fisheries resources,” said MRC’s Director of Planning Division An Pich Hatda.
Through this project, fishery specialists from the two countries have identified significant issues that they can jointly address, including unsustainable fishing practices, the lack of enforcement of regulations of fisheries, and habitat degradation due to excessive land use. They have also identified five whitefish species that migrate long distances and are commercially important for monitoring and managing at the trans-boundary level.
In addition, the two teams have agreed to adopt the MRC’s fish monitoring procedures to monitor catches of whitefish species in the Mekong and Xekong rivers. They will commence the monitoring activities and train selected fishermen to document common fishing practices, profiles of fishing gear used, and map monitored habitats.
Another milestone they agreed to is to setup a joint fisheries management body by the end of the project in 2018.
At a joint workshop in Stung Treng Province, organized in conjunction with the exchange visit, officials from Cambodia and Lao PDR agreed to increase efforts to establish the joint management body.
The two teams said they will discuss the structure of the joint body and financial issues, and identify stakeholders’ needs that are critical for the successful design and implementation of the joint management body and action plan.
Viengsay Sophachan, National Coordinator of the Lao National Mekong Committee, believes that the collaborative efforts will enhance the sustainability of the fisheries resource.
“We will continue our efforts to ensure that our bilateral cooperation complements one another for sustainable fisheries resource management that can support people’s livelihoods while conserving nature,” he said.
Source: Lao News Agency