Agreement to conserve Mekong River fish

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Cambodia and Laos have formed a joint committee aimed at preserving and increasing the population of freshwater fish in the Mekong River.
 
The committee was formed because of declining fish stocks in part due to illegal fishing and the construction of hydropower dams.
 
In a statement released by the Mekong River Commission, both nations met in Siem Reap province earlier this month to formulate a plan aimed at managing five species of freshwater fish that migrate long distances and are crucial for surrounding villagers’ food security.
 
“The joint management plan brings the two countries together to better manage our fisheries which will contribute to an increase of fish populations,” Lao National Mekong Committee deputy director-general Chanthachith Amphaychith was quoted as saying.
 
Representatives from the two countries also formed a Transboundary Fisheries Management team for the Mekong and Sekong rivers which will oversee conservation efforts.
 
The fish population in both rivers has been reduced due to overfishing, the use of illegal fishing equipment and habitat degradation, coupled with both countries’ fisheries ministries struggle with a lack of resources and manpower to police the areas.
 
“Through the joint management plan, we hope we can address these constraints and rebuild populations of these fish species,” said Chheng Phen, the acting director of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry’s Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute.
 
“[This] will support food security, provide increased recreational fishing opportunities and bring back fresh fish resources in the Mekong and Sekong rivers.”
 
The two countries plan to meet again in May to further develop conservation plans.
 
Once complete in 2018, effective policies will be integrated in both Cambodia and Laos’ national policies.
 
It was reported in November that a third Mekong hydropower project, in Laos’ territory of the lower Mekong basin, was officially given the green light to begin.
 
Dams on the Mekong River, upon which the livelihoods of millions depend, have faced repeated criticism from villagers and environmental activists who say that such projects affect both the ecosystem of river life as well as the agriculture on nearby land.

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