Local perceptions of changes in the use and management of floodplain fisheries commons: the case of Pak Peung wetland in Lao PDR

  • Joanne Millar
  • Wayne Robinson
  • Lee Baumgartner
  • Khampheng Homsombath
  • Malavanh Chittavong
  • Thonglome Phommavong
  • Douangkham Singhanouvong


Local perceptions of floodplain fisheries use and management can play an important role in designing adaptive strategies to improve fisheries co-management. This paper explores perceptions of local people on changes in the use and management of floodplain fisheries, using a case study of Pak Peung wetland commons in Lao PDR. The wetland is seasonally inundated from the Mekong River; however, fish migration has been impacted by irrigation development and increasing fishing pressure. Local fishing practices, knowledge and views were captured to inform co-management strategies, including the first fishway designed for Mekong River fish species. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in 2011 with 81 households from six villages around the wetland. The survey was repeated in 2015 to ascertain any changes in practices and observations of fish migrating up the fishway. Most respondents spent between 10 and 25 h per week fishing and caught from 0.5 to 12 kg per day (average 3 kg), highlighting the part-time and opportunistic nature of seasonal floodplain fishing. Complementary gender roles in exploiting the resource were evident with women catching a wider range of species than men and fishing closer to villages. Respondents said fisheries had declined due to habitat destruction, irrigation development, population increase and illegal fishing methods. Most people wanted stronger regulation and patrolling of fish conservation zones. Several households reported catching fish species not seen in the wetland for many years post-fishway including two endangered species and one vulnerable species. Greater attention to regular enforcement of fisheries rules and gendered perspectives would assist local communities in protecting their floodplains for future generations.


Floodplain fisheries Fishway Fisheries commons Lower Mekong Region Wetlands Mekong River 



We would like to acknowledge the village leaders and people interviewed for their generosity in participating in the research. The survey was conducted with support from the Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre in Australia, the Lao Living Aquatic Resources Research Centre, the National University of Lao, Australian Volunteers for International Development (special thanks to Jarrod McPherson, Andrew Traplett and Kate Martin) and officers from the Paksan District Agriculture and Forestry Office. The research was funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) (Grant No. FIS 2009 041).

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

“All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.” The research was approved by the Charles Sturt University Human Ethics Committee. Protocol number 2014/214.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joanne Millar
    • 1
  • Wayne Robinson
    • 1
  • Lee Baumgartner
    • 1
  • Khampheng Homsombath
    • 2
  • Malavanh Chittavong
    • 3
  • Thonglome Phommavong
    • 3
  • Douangkham Singhanouvong
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Land, Water and SocietyCharles Sturt UniversityAlburyAustralia
  2. 2.Living Aquatic Resources Research CentreVientianeLao PDR
  3. 3.Faculty of AgricultureNational University of Lao PDRVientianeLao PDR

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