Skip to main content

Mekong River Fish Conservation Zones in Southern Laos: Assessing Effectiveness Using Local Ecological Knowledge

Abstract

Small-scale fisheries are important in Laos, where rural people heavily depend upon Mekong River and tributary fish stocks for their livelihoods. Increasing pressures from human exploitation and habitat disturbance, however, have raised serious concerns about the potential depletion of various species. This has led to the establishment of large numbers of Fish Conservation Zones (FCZs) or “no-take” fish sanctuaries in southern Laos based on a “community-based fisheries co-management” framework. This study uses the local ecological knowledge (LEK) of fishers to assess the effectiveness of village-managed FCZs in enhancing fish stocks in the mainstream Mekong River in Khong District, Champasak Province. Focus group interviews about species that are believed to have benefited from different FCZs are compared with parameters such as FCZ area, age, depth, localized gradient, water velocity, and the presence of wetland forests nearby. The results suggest that no one aspect is likely to account for variations in fish stocks; rather, it is the interaction between numerous factors that has the largest impact. Secondly, the results indicate that microhabitat diversity and protection are critical for maintaining and enhancing Mekong fisheries. Deep-water pools are particularly important as dry season refuges for many fish species, and FCZ depth may be the single most important environmental factor affecting the success of FCZs in the Mekong River. FCZs have the most potential to benefit relatively sedentary species, but may also benefit highly migratory species, given the right conditions. This study shows that integrated approaches to stock assessment that employ LEK and scientific fisheries management have considerable potential for improving Mekong capture-fisheries management.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Figure 1
Figure 2

References

  1. Abramovitz J. 1996. Imperiled waters, impoverished future: The decline of freshwater ecosystems. Paper no. 128. Worldwatch Institute, New York

    Google Scholar 

  2. Ahmed M., H. Navy, L. Vuthy, M. Tiongco. 1998. Socioeconomic assessment of freshwater capture fisheries in Cambodia: Report on a household survey. Mekong River Commission, Phnom Penh

    Google Scholar 

  3. Baird I. G. 2001a. Aquatic biodiversity in the siphandone wetlands. in G. Daconto (ed), Siphandone wetlands. CESVI Cooperation and Development, Bergamo, Italy. Pages 64–71

    Google Scholar 

  4. Baird I. G. 2001b. Towards sustainable co-management of Mekong River inland aquatic resources, including fisheries, in Southern Lao PDR. G. Daconto (ed), Siphandone wetlands. CESVI Cooperation and Development, Bergamo, Italy. Pages 89–111

    Google Scholar 

  5. Baird, I. G. 2005 (in press). Local ecological knowledge and small-scale freshwater fisheries management in the Mekong River in Southern Laos. in N. Haggan, B. Neis, and I. G. Baird (eds.), Putting fishers’ knowledge to work: Changing the face of fisheries science and management. Blackwell Publishing, and UNESCO, Oxford

  6. Baird, I. G., and B. Phylavanh. 1999. Fishes and forests: Fish foods and the importance of seasonally flooded riverine habitats for Mekong River fish. Technical report. Environmental protection and community development in Siphandone Wetland Project. CESVI Cooperation and Development, Pakse, Lao PDR

  7. Baird I. G., P. Dearden. 2003. Biodiversity and resource tenure regimes: A case study from Northeast Cambodia. Environmental Management 32:541–550

    Google Scholar 

  8. Baird, I. G., P. Kisouvannalath, V. Inthaphaisy, and B. Phylavanh. 1998a. The potential for ecological classification as a tool for establishing and monitoring fish conservation zones in the Mekong River. Technical report. Environmental Protection and Community Development in Siphandone Wetland Project. CESVI Cooperation and Development, Pakse, Lao PDR

  9. Baird, I. G., V. Inthaphaisy, B. Phylaivanh, and P. Kisouvannalath. 1998b. A rapid fisheries survey in Khong District, Champasak Province, Southern Lao PDR. Technical report. Environmental protection and community development in Siphandone Wetland Project. CESVI Cooperation and Development, Pakse, Lao PDR

  10. Baird, I. G., V. Inthaphaisy, P. Kisouvannalath, B. Phylavanh, and B. Mounsouphom. 1999a. The fishes of Southern Lao (in Lao). Lao Community Fisheries and Dolphin Protection Project, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Vientiane

  11. Baird, I. G., V. Inthaphaisy, P. Kisouvannalth, B. Vongsenesouk, and B. Phylavanh. 1999b. The setting up and the initial results of a villager based system for monitoring fish conservation zones in the Mekong River, Khong District, Champasak Province, Southern Lao PDR. Technical report. Environmental Protection and Community Development in Siphandone Wetland Project. CESVI Cooperation and Development, Vientiane

  12. Baird I. G., Z. Hogan, B. Phylaivanh, P. Moyle. 2001a. A communal fishery for migratory catfish Pangasius macronema in the Mekong River. Asian Fisheries Science 14:25–41

    Google Scholar 

  13. Baird I. G., B. Phylavanh, B. Vongsenesouk, K. Xaiyamanivong. 2001b. The ecology and conservation of the smallscale croaker Boesemania microlepis (Bleeker 1858-59) in the mainstream Mekong River, Southern Laos. Natural History Bulletin of the Siam Society 49:161–176

    Google Scholar 

  14. Baird I. G., M. S. Flaherty, B. Phylavanh. 2003. Rhythms of the river: Lunar phases and migrations of small carps (Cyprinidae) in the Mekong River. Natural History Bulletin of the Siam Society 51:5–36

    Google Scholar 

  15. Bakker K. 1999. The politics of hydropower: developing the Mekong. Political Geography 18:209–232

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Batterbury S., T. Forsyth, K. Thompson. 1997. Environmental transformation in developing countries: Hybrid research and democratic policy. The Geographical Journal 2:126–132

    Google Scholar 

  17. Bawa Village Community. 1997. Mozambique’s Tchuma Tchato initiative of resource management on the Zambezi: A community perspective. Society & Natural Resources 10:409–413

    Google Scholar 

  18. Bush S. 2003. “Give a man a fish...”: Contextualising living aquatic resources development in the lower Mekong basin. Working paper series, working paper no. 8. Australian Mekong Resource Centre, University of Sydney, Sydney

    Google Scholar 

  19. Bush S. R. 2004. Scales and sales: Changing social and spatial fish trading networks in the Siphandone Fishery, Lao PDR. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 25:32–50

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Chomchanta P., P. Vongphasouk, S. Chanrya, C. Soulignavong, B. Saadsy, T. J. Warren. 2000. A preliminary assessment of Mekong Fishery Conservation Zones in the Siphandone area of Southern Lao PDR, and recommendations for further evaluation and monitoring. Final report. The Living Aquatic Resources and Research Centre (LARReC), Vientiane

    Google Scholar 

  21. Claridge G. (compiler). 1996. An inventory of wetlands of the Lao PDR. Wetlands Programme. IUCN—The World Conservation Union, Vientiane

    Google Scholar 

  22. Claridge G. F., T. Sorangkhoun, I. G. Baird. 1997. Community fisheries in Lao PDR: A survey of techniques and issues. IUCN—The World Conservation Union, Vientiane

    Google Scholar 

  23. Colchester M., C. Erni. (eds.). 1998. Indigenous peoples and protected areas in South and Southeast Asia. International Work Group for Indigenous Associations, Copenhagen

    Google Scholar 

  24. Cowx I. 1991. Catch effort sampling strategies: Conclusions and recommendations for management. in I. Cowx (ed.), Catch effort sampling strategies: Their application in freshwater fisheries management. Fishing New Books, London. Pages 404–413

    Google Scholar 

  25. Cunningham P., 1998. Extending a co-management network to save the Mekong’s giants. Mekong Fish Catch and Culture 3:6–7

    Google Scholar 

  26. Daconto G., (ed.) 2001. Siphandone wetlands. CESVI Cooperation and Development, Bergamo, Italy

    Google Scholar 

  27. Dudgeon D., 2002. An inventory of riverine biodiversity in monsoonal Asia: Present status and conservation challenges. Water Science and Technology 45:11–19

    Google Scholar 

  28. Fischer F. 2000. Citizens, experts, and the environment: The politics of local knowledge. Duke University Press, Durham

    Google Scholar 

  29. Fisheries Office, Ratanakiri Province and [NTFP] the Non-Timber Forest Products Project, Ratanakiri Province. 2000. A study of the downstream impacts of the Yali Falls Dam in Ratanakiri Province, Northeast Cambodia. Fisheries Office, Ratanakiri Province and NTFP, Ratanakiri, Cambodia

  30. [FAO] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 1999. Aquastat—FAO’s Information System on Water and Agriculture. Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome

  31. Friedlander A., J. C. Nowlis, J. A. Sanchez, R. Appeldoorn, P. Usseglio, C. McCormick, S. Bejarno, A. Mitchell-Chui. 2003. Designing effective marine protected areas in Seaflower biosphere reserve, Columbia, based on biological and sociological information. Conservation Biology 17:1769–1784

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Garaway C. J. 1999. Small waterbody fisheries and the potential for community-led enhancement: Case studies in Lao PDR. T. H. Huxley School for the Environment, Earth Sciences and Engineering, Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine. University of London, London

    Google Scholar 

  33. Haggan N., B. Neis, I. G. Baird (eds). 2004 Putting fishers’ knowledge to work: Changing the face of fisheries science and management. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford (in press).

    Google Scholar 

  34. Hill M. T., S. A. Hill. 1994. Fisheries ecology and hydropower in the Mekong River: An evaluation of run-of-the-river projects. Mekong Secretariat, Bangkok

    Google Scholar 

  35. Hirsch, P., and P. Noraseng. 1999. Co-management of fisheries in diverse aqua-ecosystems of southern Laos. Paper presented at the International Workshop of Fisheries Co-Management, Penang, Malaysia, 23–28 August 1999. ICLARM, Pakse, Lao PDR

  36. Hirsch, P., and A. Wyatt. 2004. Negotiating local livehoods: Scale of conflict in the San River Basin. Asia Pacific Viewpoint 45:51–68

    Google Scholar 

  37. Hogan Z., 1997. Aquatic conservation zones: Community management of rivers and fisheries. Watershed 3:29–33

    Google Scholar 

  38. Hubbel D., 1999. Food for the people: Natural fisheries of the Mekong River. Watershed 4:22–36

    Google Scholar 

  39. [IIED] International Institute of Environment and Development. 1997. Participatory learning and action. Participation and fishing communities. PLA Notes. International Institute of Environment and Development, London

    Google Scholar 

  40. [IRN] International Rivers Network. 1999. Power struggle. The impacts of hydro-development in Laos. International Rivers Network, Berkeley, USA

    Google Scholar 

  41. Jentoft S., B. J. McCay, D. C. Wilson. 1998. Social theory and fisheries co-management. Marine Policy 22:423–436

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Johannes R. E. 1998. Dataless management. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 13:243–246

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Johnson C. 1998. Beyond community rights: Small-scale fisheries and community-based management in southern Thailand. TDRI Quarterly Review 13:25–31

    Google Scholar 

  44. Kolding J. 2002. The use of hydro-acoustic surveys for the monitoring of fish abundance in the deep pools and Fish Conservation Zones in the Mekong River, Siphandone area, Champassak Province, Lao PDR. Technical report from a test survey. LaRREC, Vientiane

    Google Scholar 

  45. Kottelat M., T. Whitten. 1996. Freshwater biodiversity in Asia with special reference to fish. World Bank technical paper no. 343. The World Bank, Washington, DC

    Google Scholar 

  46. Lieng S., C. Yim, N. P. van Zalinge. 1995. Fisheries of the Tonlesap River Cambodia, I: The Bagnet (Dai) Fishery. Asian Fisheries Science 8:258–265

    Google Scholar 

  47. Masae A., A. Nissapa, and S. Boromthanarat. 1999. An analysis of co-management arrangements: A case of fishing community in Southern Thailand. Paper presented at the International Workshop on Fisheries Co-Management, Penang, Malaysia, 23–28 August 1999. CORIN and ICLARM, Songkhla, Thailand

  48. Matics K. I. 1997. Recent developments and announcements: Measures for enhancing marine fisheries stock in Southeast Asia. Ocean and Coastal Management 34:233–247

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. McCay B. J., S. Jentoft. 1996. From the bottom up: Participatory issues in fisheries management. Society & Natural Resources 9:237–250

    Google Scholar 

  50. Memon P. A., B. Sheeran, T. Ririnui. 2003. Strategies for rebuilding closer links between local indigenous communities and their customary fisheries in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Local Environment 8:205–219

    Google Scholar 

  51. Olomola A. 1998. Sources and resolution of conflicts in Nigerian artisinal fisheries. Society & Natural Resources 11:121–135

    Google Scholar 

  52. Pomeroy R. S., M. B. Carlos. 1997. Community-based coastal resource management in the Philippines: a review and evaluation of programs and projects, 1984–1994. Marine Policy 21:445–464

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Pomeroy R. S., B. M. Katon, I. Harkes. 2001. Conditions affecting the success of fisheries co-management: Lessons from Asia. Marine Policy 25:197–208

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Poulsen A. F. 2001. Deep pools as dry season fish habitats in the Mekong River basin. Report for the assessment of Mekong fisheries component (AMFC). Mekong River Commission, Vientiane

    Google Scholar 

  55. Poulsen, A. F. and J. Valbo- Jorgensen. 2001a. Deep pools in the Mekong River. Mekong River Catch and Culture 7(1):1, 8–9

    Google Scholar 

  56. Poulsen A. F., J. Valbo-Jorgensen. 2001b. Fish migration and spawning habits in the Mekong mainstream: A survey using local knowledge. CD ROM. AMFC/MRC, Vientiane

    Google Scholar 

  57. Primack R. B. 1998. Essentials of conservation biology (2nd edition). Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, Massachusetts, USA

    Google Scholar 

  58. Roberts T. R. 1993a. Environmental impact assessment: the EIA on EIA. Asian Society for Environmental Protection Newsletter 9:1–3, 10.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Roberts T. R. 1993b. Just another dammed river? Negative impacts of Pak Mun dam on fishes of the Mekong Basin. Natural History Bulletin of the Siam Society 41:105–133

    Google Scholar 

  60. Roberts T. R. 1993c. Artisinal fisheries and fish ecology below the great waterfalls of the Mekong River in Southern Laos. Natural History Bulletin of the Siam Society 41:31–62

    Google Scholar 

  61. Roberts T. R., I. G. Baird. 1995. Traditional fisheries and fish ecology on the Mekong river at Khone waterfalls in southern Laos. Natural History Bulletin of the Siam Society 43:219–262

    Google Scholar 

  62. Roberts T., T. Warren. 1994. Observations on fishes and fisheries in southern Laos and northeastern Cambodia, October 1993–February 1994. Natural History Bulletin of the Siam Society 42:87–115

    Google Scholar 

  63. Russ G. R., A. C. Alcala. 1999. Management histories of Sumilon and Apo Marine Reserves, Philippines, and their influence on national marine resource policy. Coral Reefs 18:307–319

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Sjorslev J. G. (ed.). 2000. Luangprabang fisheries survey. AMFC/MRC and LaRREC/NAFRI, Vientiane

    Google Scholar 

  65. Thorburn C. C. 2001. The house that poison built: Customary marine property rights and the live food fish trade in the Kei Islands, southeast Maluku. Development and Change 32:151–180

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. [UNDP] United Nations Development Program. 1999. Lao PDR Country Profile. UNDP, Vientiane

    Google Scholar 

  67. Warren T. J., G. C. Chapman, D. Singhanouvong. 1998. The upstream dry-season migrations of some important fish species in the Lower Mekong River in Laos. Asian Fisheries Science 11:239–251

    Google Scholar 

  68. William G. A., F. Krupp, M. Younis. 2003. Development and management of a network of marine protected areas in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden region. Ocean and Coastal Management 46:741–761

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The Environmental Protection and Community Development in Siphandone Wetland Project, funded by the European Union, supported this study. CESVI Cooperation and Development and the Agriculture and Forestry Division of Champasak Province, Lao PDR implemented the project. We gratefully acknowledge our Lao co-workers: Phongsavath Kisouvannalath, Vixay Inthaphaisy, Bounpheng Phylavanh, Khamsouk Xaiyamanivong, and Bounthong Vongxenesouk. We are also grateful for the comments provided by David Dudgeon, Simon R. Bush, and one anonymous reviewer. We thank Ole Heggen from the Geography Department of the University of Victoria for preparing the maps, and finally, we especially thank the villagers in Khong District who participated in the survey.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ian G. Baird.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Baird, I.G., Flaherty, M.S. & Baird, I.G. Mekong River Fish Conservation Zones in Southern Laos: Assessing Effectiveness Using Local Ecological Knowledge. Environmental Management 36, 439–454 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-005-3093-7

Download citation

Keywords

  • Asia
  • Small-scale fisheries
  • Marine protected areas
  • Co-management
  • Traditional ecological knowledge
  • Fish sanctuaries