Sumernet

Fish of the Upper Mekong: biodiversity, resources and conservation

This report is focused on conservation and development of fish stocks and the commercial infrastructure surrounding them in the Mekong River Basin area. At this time the group focused on this task, the Mekong River Commission (MRC), has provided data that indicates that fish stocks are already suffering a decline in the area due to several factors. Although this information is not conclusive due to the limited availability of data on the status of fish stocks and habitats in the upper area of the Mekong River Basin in China, there are still indications that fish stocks are already being damaged and will continue to be unless changes are made.
 
The major factors damaging the fish in this area are:
 
Depletion of fish stocks
 
  • Due to improvements in the methods and technologies of catching and farming fish, more fish are being caught.
  • General increase in demand of fish due to a recent influx of people to this area.
  • Increase in river traffic affecting the behaviour of fish as well as damaging the population due to direct contact or indirectly by affecting their behaviour and environment.
All of these factors contribute greatly to over-fishing as more and more people are fishing in this area and those migrants who are not involved in aquaculture are still
serving to increase fish market demand.
 
Changes to the environment that affect the ecosystem and migratory routes
 
  • Introduction of exotic species that can have negative effects on the eco balance of the area.
  • Damming that has large impacts on the surrounding area, destroying spawning sites, blocking the river to upstream migration and filtering the water so less debris continues downstream. It also slows the flow speed that smaller fish and fingerlings are reliant on.
  • Industrial and agricultural changes to the area that cause pollution, cause sedimentation and deforestation of areas surrounding the rivers.
These changes bring into question the sustainability of the ecosystems from which the fish stocks of the Mekong are derived.
 
The proposed methods of conservation involve encouraging development to help in the conservation of fish and the habitats they rely on. They also involve the education of local people affected by these methods and encouraging their active participation in conservation.
 
  • Establishing protected areas in sites of great ecological importance.
  • Programs aimed at re-stocking depleted fish stocks in lakes, banning fishing of key areas during spawning seasons and combining aquaculture and fisheries.
  • Increase awareness and knowledge of the effects of developing river areas in a non-ecologically friendly manner. And also increasing the knowledge of how to and the positive effects of farming and developing aquaculture in a sustainable and ecologically friendly manner.
These programs, already active in some areas, will provide long term sustainable fish stocks that can be fished responsibly and continue to provide for the needs of the local peoples, while at the same time not negatively affecting the biodiversity of the area or fish population and health.