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Efforts to rebuild freshwater fish populations in the Mekong and Sekong River Basins are underway with plans in place to establish a Joint Fisheries Management Plan between Cambodia and Lao PDR.

As part of the efforts, fishery specialists from the two member countries of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) met in Siem Reap for two days in mid-February to discuss steps for preparing the joint plan to manage five fish species that migrate long distances to both rivers, are valuable for food security, and remain commercially important to both countries.

At the joint management planning meeting, organized under the MRC’s Trans-boundary Fisheries Management on the Mekong and Sekong Rivers Project, the two teams discussed core elements of the management plan, including management measures for each fish species.

Both countries will further develop and refine the draft plan through consultation workshops at national and local levels to hear and consider the views and needs of stakeholders.

“The Joint Management Plan will bring the two countries together to better manage our fisheries which will contribute to an increase of fish populations,” said Mr. Chanthachith Amphaychith, Deputy Director General of the Lao National Mekong Committee.

The five-whitefish species, considered representative of the health of the freshwater fisheries system in the Mekong and Sekong Rivers, include Pangasius larnaudiei (a type of catfish), Pangasius conchophilus (a species of shark catfish), Cirrhinus microlepis (a type of carp), Mekongina erythrospila (a type of carp or minnow), and Helicophagus waandersi.

Fisheries experts from the two MRC member countries said during the meeting that the current catches of these species is dominated by small and medium sized fish, with a notable reduction in the number of large sized fish in the catch.

The experts cited increasing fishing efforts, the use of illegal gear, and habitat degradation as major threats to these freshwater fish species. The project also identified other issues that put pressure on fishery resources such as limited data and information on the fisheries, limited capacity and resources for management of the fisheries, and challenges in implementing the existing joint management mechanism.

“Through the Joint Management Plan, we hope we can address these constraints and rebuild populations of these fish species, which will support food security, provide increased recreational fishing opportunities, and bring back fresh fish resources in the Mekong and Sekong Rivers,” said Mr. Chheng Phen, Acting Director of Cambodia’s Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

In addition to the Joint Fisheries Management Plan, the teams also moved towards identifying an appropriate joint coordination mechanism, including the establishment of a joint fisheries management body to implement an action plan. The two countries will review existing trans-boundary coordination mechanisms and determine national data and information needs for the development of a joint mechanism paper.

The teams plan to meet again in early May to further develop these initiatives.

Lao PDR and Cambodia have been working together through the Mekong-Sekong Fisheries Project to improve the management of fisheries in four bordering provinces of the two countries – Stung Treng and Kratie of Cambodia and Champassak and Attapeu of Lao PDR connecting by the river basins.

It is one of five trans-boundary projects funded by the World Bank under the MRC’s Integrated Water Resources Management Project.

Once completed in 2018, officials from Cambodia and Lao PDR said that achievements made under the project would be integrated into national plans of the two countries. They will also discuss how to implement the Joint Fisheries Management Plan to ensure the sustainability of trans-boundary fisheries in to the future.

Minister of Planning and Investment Souphanh Keomixay on Mar 1 received a courtesy call from US Ambassador to Laos Rena Bitter on the occasion of her assumption to the post in Laos.

At the amicable talks, Minister Souphanh highly valued the appointment to the post of Ms Rena Bitter in the Lao PDR as it will contribute to enhancing the relations and cooperation between Laos and the United States over years to come.

In reply, the Ambassador assured the host that she would do her utmost to fulfill her diplomatic tenure thus enhancing the relations and cooperation between Laos and the United States.

Source: Lao News Agency