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New Community Fisheries Project to Preserve Mekong’s Biodiversity

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A new community fisheries project in the Mekong River was launched in Vientiane yesterday with the Department of Livestock and Fisheries (DLF), Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry agreeing to cooperate with the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF-Laos).A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by the DLF’s Deputy Director General, Mr. Bounthong Saphakdy and WWF-Lao Country Director, Mr. Somphone Bouasavanh in the presence of representatives from the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Natural Resources and Environment and local authorities.

The project focuses on two provinces along the middle Mekong main stream, Borikhamxay and Khammuan.

The project’s aim is to improve transboundary freshwater natural resources management via the creation of a fish conservation zone (FCZ), fisheries management committee and village patrolling units in 15 villages of target provinces.

It will run in parallel with a similar project in Thailand, in an effort to jointly improve the management of the Mekong River’s rich natural resources.

The project will also support local livelihoods and development of alternative sources of income to reduce pressures on freshwater natural resources.

In addition, the project will seek to raise awareness in communities to better understand the benefits of fish conservation and fisheries management.

The 3-year US$402,000 project is funded by WWF Switzerland and receives technical support from the WWF Greater Mekong Programme Office.

To further demonstrate the benefits of fish conservation zones, the DLF and WWF-Laos will use systematic monitoring and evaluation processes that will provide scientific grounds for the replication of the community fisheries model in other parts of Laos as well as the Greater Mekong region.

Setting up fish conservation zones has a fundamental importance for both people and the environment. FCZs contribute to the overall improvement of people’s livelihoods by increasing fish stocks and thus the rivers’ fish productivity.

FCZs also contribute to freshwater conservation as fish species benefit from safe havens to spawn, feed and shelter.

This new project is the latest in a long-lasting cooperation between the DLF and WWF-Laos that started in 2007.

At the time, the project also supported villages in the southern provinces of Xekong and Attapeu as well as Bokeo province in northern Laos.

Since then, the DLF and WWF-Laos have supported the creation of more than 250 fish conservation zones in seven provinces.

People living along the Mekong are dependent on the river and the Mekong is also home to great fish biodiversity supporting some of the world’s largest freshwater species.

However, the Mekong is impacted by economic development; this is having significant impacts on the spawning grounds of many species of fish, which become at risk due to changes to water ecology.

Source: Vientiane Times