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In most countries where information is actually collected, the process originates at district/sub-district level. Often, the only way to fully investigate the statistical validity of such an information system is to review activities at that level. The travel schedule of the mission did not allow this. This report is therefore based upon information obtained primarily in head offices and analyses of the officially reported statistics. This is sufficient for the purposes of this general review, which concentrates on information gaps and needs at the planning and management levels. It should be followed by more in-depth reviews of the national statistical and information systems by the appropriate authorities in the proposed follow-on activities (including a proposed regional TCP on Addressing the Quality of Information on Inland Fisheries, AQUIIF).

The mission visited four countries as part of the current assignment (Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand). A fifth (the Philippines) was visited as part of the AQUIIF formulation mission and more brief details of the inland capture fishery statistics have been incorporated into this report as an addendum from that mission. In addition, the mission has recent experience with inland fisheries data in three others (Cambodia, Lao PDR and VietNam).

The summaries, observations and recommendations presented in Part II are specific to the countries in question. These should be viewed in conjunction with the synthesis of common problems and general recommendations contained in Part I.


5.1. Indonesia
5.2. Malaysia
5.3. Myanmar
5.4. Philippines
5.5. Thailand

5.1. Indonesia

5.1.1. Background
5.1.2. The statistical collection system
5.1.3. The information produced
5.1.4. Perceptions of inland fisheries and objectives of the statistics
5.1.5. Conclusions and recommendations

5.1.1. Background

Indonesia is a very diverse country. The nation includes several islands with significant land mass, high rainfall and, consequently, has significant freshwater resources, especially rivers. Particular mention can be made of Sumatra (which has several good sized rivers), Kalimantan (“Borneo”; which includes the Kapuas and Mahakam Rivers both of which are large by world standards, plus several others), Sulawesi and Irian Jaya. The latter is the eastern half of the world’s largest tropical island, New Guinea, which has the large Idenburg/Mamberamo system in the north, equivalent to either the Fly or Sepik Rivers in Papua New Guinea, and several other decent sized systems to the south. Although inland waters in parts of Indonesia are reported to be suffering from severe environmental stress, good inland fisheries are known to still occur, particularly on Kalimantan and the mid to southern region of eastern Sumatra. The least environmental degradation likely occurs in Irian Jaya, partly due to lower population pressures there.

A notable feature of Indonesia is that the islands cover two of the word’s most prominent zoogeographic zones separated at “Wallace’s Line” running roughly north-east to south-west between Sulawesi and Kalimantan. East of this line (notably New Guinea), primary freshwater fishes, for example carps (cyprinids), do not naturally occur and the depauperate nature of the fish fauna limits biological production (Coates, 1985; 1993); although a large number of species have now been introduced into that area. Inland fisheries in Irian Jaya are significantly different from the rest of Indonesia (especially Sumatra and Kalimantan) but fortunately, for current purposes, valid comparisons can be made with fisheries in the eastern half of the island (Papua New Guinea).

The licensing requirements for inland fisheries vary widely between provinces and districts. In general licenses are officially required for the more commercial gears but compliance (and surveillance) may be reduced beyond Java. Access to prime fishing opportunities (either by sites for major gears or by demarcated areas) is often allocated by auction systems. This is especially so for the major opportunities (or areas) on river floodplains. The system is similar to the “lot” system of Cambodia and the “Inn” system of Myanmar. Auction income can provide an important source of revenue for government agencies (up to 75 percent of income in some areas, for example, southern Sumatra). Auction systems are widespread on Kalimantan but tend to be more village based. They are traditionally absent on Irian Jaya because of the resource base limits the partitioning of exploitation in this fashion.

Fisheries associations are common in inland areas, especially for reservoirs. Fishing competitions are popular (using hook and line). This fledgling recreational/sport fisheries sub-sector appears to be growing rapidly.

Most commentators agree that a major requirement for inland waters is improved environmental management but that a major constraint to achieving this is limited co-ordination between the various agencies involved.

Indonesia has no significant national management policies or strategies for its inland capture fisheries excepting a general policy of sustaining the resources. There are many localised activities, such as stocking, which can be widespread and significant, especially in reservoirs. A substantial degree of survey work and/or research has been done in localised areas (southern Sumatra, Kalimantan). The country includes some of the best studied freshwater fisheries in Asia although, as usual, the mission found it difficult to obtain published information on fisheries production based on empirical survey data.

The Directorate General of Capture Fisheries has a stated policy to emphasise co-management approaches within a national policy promoting the increasing role of local communities in managing areas.

5.1.2. The statistical collection system

Previously, “freshwater” and “brackishwater” fisheries were jointly covered under an inland fisheries section. Now there are separate divisions for marine, freshwater and brackishwater fisheries. Production from inland brackishwaters is still included under inland production statistics. The definition of “inland” is problematic locally but this is thought not a serious problem with the statistics. The definition of aquaculture is more of a problem (ref. how to treat production from extensive stocking). In Indonesia, the term “inland fisheries” includes both aquaculture and capture fisheries activities (the latter sub-sector is referred to locally as “inland open water fisheries”).

Indonesia has a very elaborate fishery statistical collection system involving a large amount of manpower and information collection based upon a structured sampling approach applied nationally but implemented at provincial and district levels. Sampling approaches are based on earlier designs with significant inputs from FAO (as is the national statistical systems for agriculture/forestry/fisheries at large). Recently, modified sampling strategies and forms for inland areas have been introduced based upon experiences from a JICA aquaculture project. Statistics are compiled at district level with actual information collection being accomplished through staff at sub-district level. District officers report the information to provincial offices, which compile it and forward it to the Sub-Directorate for Data and Statistics within the Directorate General of Capture Fisheries (DGCF) in Jakarta. From there it is forwarded to the National BPS Statistics Indonesia and to FAO. DGCF Jakarta is largely responsible for determining the content of the statistics themselves.

Three types of forms are used. Those prefixed “S” for actual field surveys, “E” for estimations based upon the surveys (i.e. from “S” forms), and “L” for reporting the figures (derived from estimates, “E” forms) to the central office.

Sample villages are determined by staff at district level as are the households sampled within sample villages. Ostensibly, selection of sample villages is based upon a previous frame survey with households being selected at random. The SP1 form covering inland open water fisheries provides a list of every household in sample villages and details of all vessel types held by the households, including no-vessel households, and the total number of fishing units by gear type. The list of gear types naturally favours the more commercial gears and/or those requiring licenses. Information on SP1 forms is recorded by quarter (3 months) but the actual survey is reportedly undertaken only once a year. Between 3 and 5 households in each village sampled are then surveyed using SP2 forms. SP2 attempts to obtain production by household based on numbers of trips and average catches per gear type per trip (i.e. catch-effort sampling based on reported catches by gear type). Information is collected for each month but surveys are reportedly done every three months. Species composition and estimated values of the catches are also recorded. Information is also collected by habitat type where the fishing occurred: “river, lake, reservoir or swamp”. This requires a separate SP2 to be completed in each household for each habitat type where fishing occurs by that household (although it is reported that sample villages are often selected based upon habitat criteria, the basis of which is unclear). Information from SP2 forms is then entered directly onto E forms from which point estimates begin to be derived based upon information from SP2’s in relation to sample sizes etc. derived mainly from SP1s. Various known raising factors are applied to the original information to obtain estimates. EP1 estimates from SP1 the number of households, boats and fishing gears etc. EP2 estimates total production by vessel, gear type, species and by habitat type (from SP2 forms). EP3 estimates the value of catch by habitat type (from SP2). An EP4 form is specifically designed to estimate the nature of disposal of the reported catch and information is collected by species (Part 1 covering weight of fresh fish, Part 2 - weight of preserved products). SP1 and SP2 do not contain information on disposal. EP4 information is based upon a separate estimation process, which in theory involves discussion with the sample groups.

At all levels, the information recorded is officially based upon reports by households and/or fishers (presumably biased towards the latter). At no time does the survey method measure any production (etc.) directly.

The current system is labour-intensive also at the level of information compilation, analysis and reporting. DGCF Jakarta intend to computerise the system to streamline the operations including using appropriate statistical software.

A comprehensive annual fishery statistics bulletin is produced. At the time of drafting this report the latest available was for 1998. Figures for 1999 have now been produced.

There are a number of constraints with this system:

(1) The sampling frame. The original frame survey upon which the current sampling strategy is based originates from an agricultural frame survey done in 1973, which apart from now being 28 years out of date, likely did not cover inland fisheries considerations anyway. Although household based sampling surveys are generally a good approach for inland fisheries, it is unclear for example, how the system covers those gears which are not owned by the household (e.g. some very productive gears can be leased or owned communally). The mission did not have time to investigate the sampling strategy in detail (the strategy is implemented at district/sub district level) and cannot currently make valid detailed comments on how the strategy might be improved. To do so would require a much more substantial study. It can be concluded, however, that there are serious doubts about the statistical validity of the official sampling programme in relation to inland fisheries (a point well acknowledged by DGCF themselves).

(2) It was reported that the information required is comprehensive but complex and time consuming. The most serious problem reported by DGCF Jakarta was insufficient manpower (budget) to undertake surveys properly. Each district has only one staff assigned to statistics. Each sub-district (where information is actually collected) usually has only one person assigned to statistics collection part-time (their duties also include e.g. extension work, licensing/surveillance duties etc.). Where appropriate, these staff are expected to collect statistics for marine, open water inland fisheries and aquaculture. Not surprisingly, it was reported that sub-districts will often (usually?) complete the L forms (reporting forms) without undertaking surveys (using S forms). District offices may also do this on behalf of sub-districts.

(3) The survey design is based upon the application of a system and strategy developed for marine fisheries, which is applied to inland areas. The emphasis in the forms to recording vessel types and gears represents these origins in design (although in theory the surveys include households without vessels). There are serious doubts about whether surveys of this nature based upon trying to record catches through estimating effort and catch per unit of effort are, in general, suitable for inland fisheries (see Part I). Although it may be valid for certain prominent gears, the approach is problematic for more informal and dispersed fishing activities. It is also unclear how the survey technique was “improved” through experiences with aquaculture. Whilst considerable overlap between culture and capture tends to occur, in most river basins there tends to be an important geographic separation between the two. For example, aquaculture tends to be more important in areas where inland fisheries are less so; for example, away from floodplains (primarily because aquaculture, in general, cannot compete with productive inland fisheries).

(4) In common with all systems based upon reporting, the information provided by respondents will depend upon (a) the willingness to be truthful, and where there is an actual or perceived link between information and licensing/regulation it is realistic to expect under-reporting; and (b) even if motivated to be truthful, the ability of the respondent to accurately estimate actual production; the sampling strategy requires a three-month recall by respondents, more importantly, for household based surveys for inland fisheries, key respondents (e.g. household heads or main fishers) have been shown to seriously underestimate household production as they tend to report only their own catch and can be unaware of other catches in the household (Sjørslev, 2000; 2001).

Fig. 2-01 Indonesian inland open water fisheries - total reported production

5.1.3. The information produced

Reported total production from inland capture fisheries is shown in Fig. 2-01 above. There is an apparent peak in the years 1994-6. However, given the known natural variations between years in inland capture fisheries, based on this information there is no evidence that production has declined over the 10 year period in question. A relatively high gross production (for Southeast Asia) is reported but this is consistent with the high population and extensive freshwater resources. This production is disaggregated by species category in Fig. 2-02. There is no apparent trend in species composition of catches except that “others” (= mainly freshwater fishes not elsewhere included in FAO Statistics) apparently account for most of the aforementioned increase in reported gross production over the period 1994-6. The large proportion of the catch being recorded as miscellaneous is a common constraint in inland capture fishery statistics. Amongst other problems, the information is effectively useless for analysing trends in vulnerable/rare species.

Fig. 2-02 Indonesian inland open water fisheries - gross production by species/category (incomplete listing)

Catches by main gear types are shown in Fig. 2-03. Again, obvious trends are absent. Not much can be made of this information except that most production arising from “other” gear types is likely typical of inland fisheries where normally a huge variety of gears are in operation. It is odd that set gill nets and hook and line, each account for a higher proportion of catches than guiding barriers (barrage fences). On river floodplains, the latter gears are normally very efficient and produce high catches. However, the most productive of such gears are usually associated with stringent licensing and revenue collection systems where under-reporting of production is likely common (if not universal). There may also be a bias in the information towards reports from reservoirs and lakes (which would also account for the dominance of production from gillnets).

The high catches from guiding barriers are also evident from Table 2.1 but the reported catch per gear is still only about 4 or 8 times that from gillnets and hook and line respectively. The mission would expect catches per gear to be relatively much higher for guiding barriers. Hoggarth et al (1999) report that such barriers account for 49 percent of the catch from an Indonesian river. Also, the mission considers that the mean catches reported per gear are high for many of the other gears. If the reports represent actual catches, this is quite possibly because there is a reporting bias towards commercial/professional fishers.

Fig. 2-03 Indonesian inland open water fisheries - gross catches by gear type

For example, an average annual catch per gillnet of about 450 kg for a professional fisherman is reasonable but as a mean catch per gear perhaps less so (since there are likely a large number of gillnets in only part-time use). However, the best illustration of peculiarities in the reports is the extremely high catch per gear under “other gears” which is the fifth highest ranked gear by production per unit and rivals that of gillnets (Table 2.1); it is also higher than the mean catch per gear for all gears combined (meaning the majority of gears have a mean catch lower than that for “others”). The majority of gears under the category “others” for tropical inland fisheries should include a myriad of small gears in intermittent, low-profile use (for example, millions of small basket traps in rice fields catching only a few kilograms per year). Even if some individual gears do produce large catches, the mean catch per gear unit should be relatively low.

Table 2.1 Indonesian inland open water fisheries - mean catches per gear (1998)

Number of gears

Total catch (kg)

mean catch per gear (kg/yr)


678 826

288 666 000


Drift gill nets

36 014

16 229 000


Set gill nets

85 350

59 046 000


portable lift net

29 642

9 414 000


scoop nets

41 304

11 292 000


long lines

35 211

11 979 000


hand lines

161 783

311 96 000


guiding barrier

20 395

333 26 000

1 634.0

stow nets

9 304

91 22 000


portable traps

102 314

40 037 000



157 509

67 024 000


One possible explanation for high unit catches for “other” gears is that production comes from a productive (per unit) gear type(s) but the gear type(s) is not listed elsewhere (if so, it should obviously be listed separately). Even so, this explanation would require that the large number of small, less productive, gears is not recorded under “other”. Again, the reports, if meaningful, could be biased towards commercial/professional catches. Such problems may be significant because the gear category “others” accounts for roughly 25 percent of the reported total catch. Much would depend upon the methods applied in the field and an analysis of disaggregated catches within the category “other” gears. For example, there would be a serious error if the data for availability of “other gears” (or by disaggregated category if applicable) were not collected on SP1 forms (i.e. it is necessary to know within the population sampled what is the overall ownership of “other gears”). It is unlikely the category “others” is uniform throughout the country. These examples illustrate the difficulties, and some possible pit-falls, of attempting to estimate inland capture fisheries production based solely on catch-effort data, particularly in the absence of a good frame survey.

Fig. 2-04 Indonesian inland open water fishery - production per quarter by province - all provinces (1998)

Reports for production are available by province. These also show no consistent trend over the last ten years. However, analysis of reported production over a one year cycle provides information. Inland capture fisheries in rivers in the tropics should show gross seasonal changes in production related to river flood cycles (see notes for Cambodia and Myanmar). Whilst there is much variation in reported production within years in some provinces, there is little consistency between them (Fig. 2-04).

For purposes of illustration, the annual cycles of reported fish production for all provinces where river and swamp fisheries account for more than 75 percent of total production (the remainder coming from lakes/reservoirs) are shown in Fig. 2-05; that is for those provinces expected to have the most seasonally variable fisheries. Three of the seven provinces show flat lines. In the others, variations occur but they are not consistent between provinces (they should be because all provinces have approximately the same seasons) and do not relate to monsoon river hydrological cycles. The absence of consistent natural cycles in these reports raises serious doubts as to the validity of the underlying information.

Fig. 2-05 Indonesian inland open water fisheries - production by quarter for each province where rivers and swamps account for greater than 75 percent of total production (1998)

Reports on numbers of fishermen per fishing household make very interesting reading (Fig.2-06). It is not certain whether reports are gender biased or whether the term “fishermen” includes women and children fishing. There is some logic in the figures in that provinces with probably more important inland capture fisheries have a higher mean number of fishermen per household. What is surprising is that a large number of provinces have a mean of less than one fisherman per fishing household (which is impossible; unless fishing households include households with no fishers). For other provinces the mean number of fishermen per household seems rather large, even for inland capture fisheries. Whilst it is not uncommon for all members of households to be involved in fishing, the mean number of fishermen in households in Sumatra Selatan, for example, is 6.5 compared with a mean provincial household size of 4.6 (BPS, 2000). For Kalimantan Barat and Kalimantan Timur, mean number of fishermen approximately equals mean household size (which has a national mean of 3.9 with a range from 3.4 to 5.0 by province, BPS, 2000).

Fig. 2-06 Indonesian inland open water fisheries - average number of fishers per fishing household by province (1998)

The number of households by category of vessels is shown in Fig. 2-07. As might be expected in inland capture fisheries, households with non-powered boats greatly outnumber those with motorised vessels. Fig. 2-08 shows the reports for the total number of vessels in inland capture fisheries by vessel category, whilst Fig. 2-09 shows reports for the total number of gears in the fishery over the recent 10 year period.

Fig. 2-07 Indonesian inland open water fisheries - numbers of fishing units (households) by management size (type of vessel)

Numbers of fishermen by category of involvement in fishing are shown in Fig. 2-10. Reports suggest that part-time fishers outnumber full-time fishers by a factor of about 2, which is logical for inland capture fisheries, although possibly still an underestimate of part-time fishers. It is unlikely that fishing in rice-fields or small water-bodies/canals/streams etc. on an infrequent basis is included in these reports. If it were, we would expect the number of part-time fishers to vastly outnumber full-time fishers.

Fig. 2-08 Indonesian inland open water fisheries - total number of fishing vessels by category

Fig. 2-09 Indonesian inland open water fisheries - total number of fishing gears by category

However, the most revealing feature of the reports in Figs. 2-07 to 2-10 is the lack of any apparent trend. First, there should be a trend in all these reports showing an increase in households involved in fishing, total numbers of vessels and gears in operation and total numbers of fishers due to population growth over the 10 year period (about 15 percent, BPS 2000). Second, there should be a clear increase in all these reports as a result of the “Asian Economic Crisis” (early 1997) which was accompanied by a significant return to fishing as a low capital activity, accompanied with emigration from urban areas. Several reliable commentators in Indonesia confirmed that in inland areas participation in fishing increased by an estimated 30-40 percent as a result of the economic down-turn. But this is nowhere to be seen in the reports. However, both the long-term trend in participation in marine fisheries due to population growth, and the more rapid increase expected in 1997/8 are clearly evident for reports for marine capture fisheries (Fig. 2-11). Not only does this analysis reinforce the view that the reports for inland capture fisheries are unreliable, the latter observation suggests that the reports are much more meaningful for marine fisheries.

Fig. 2-10 Indonesian inland open water fisheries - number of fishers by category

Fig. 2-11 Indonesian - number of marine fishermen by category

Data from fish consumption surveys are available (BPS, 1999). Total fish consumption estimates for various provinces are shown in Table 2.2 together with reported landings from inland capture fisheries. These comparisons are useful as a rough and independent test of the reported catch figures. Fish consumed, of course, can include that from any source (imported, marine, inland capture or aquaculture). But in freshwater resource rich areas with large rural populations, contributions from inland capture fisheries should make the major contribution to fish consumed locally. This is partly reflected in the information for Kalimantan Tengah and Kalimantan Selatan where reported inland catch accounts for more than 95 percent of fish consumed locally. However, it is unclear why the contribution of inland catches to consumption should be drastically lower in Kalimantan Timur and especially Kalimantan Barat (Kapuas River system). Similarly, for the Sumatera region, Sumatera Selatan has a reasonable contribution from inland capture of 58.7 percent of fish consumed but it is unclear why Riau and Jambi, for example, have significantly lower contributions at 13.9 and 18.8 percent respectively. Production figures for inland capture for Sulawesi would appear to be particularly low in relation to fish consumed. Unfortunately, for these figures, it is not known which reported catches (at provincial level) are the most representative, if any. It is also likely that the fish consumption estimates (BPS, 1999) are also underestimates since the FAO figure for per caput fish supply for Indonesia (based on production statistics and export/import figures) is about 16.3 kg/caput/year, and this is without allowing for under-reporting of inland catches, compared to the national average fish consumption per caput of 10.5 kg/caput/yr from the BPS reported survey.

Table 2.2 Total fish consumption (from fish consumption surveys, BPS 1999) compared with reported catches from inland capture fisheries for selected provinces in Indonesia

Total population

Reported production from inland capture fisheries MT (1998)

Total fish consumption (kg/caput/yr) Urban areas

Total fish consumption (kg/caput/yr) Rural areas

Estimate total fish consumed (MT)

% of consumption arising from reported inland catches

Sumatera Utara

11 476 000

6 979



229 520


Sumatera Barat

4 228 000

6 651



44 394



4 734 000

12 488



89 946



2 401 000

5 287



28 091


Sumatera Selatan

7 756 000

45 523



77 560



1 405 000

3 359



15 314



6 654 000

6 078



54 562


Kalimantan Barat

3 740 000

10 969



63 580


Kalimantan Tengah

1 801 000

34 524



36 020


Kalimantan Selatan

2 970 000

56 494



59 400


Kalimantan Timur

2 436 000

16 240



48 720


Sulawesi Utara

2 821 000




67 704


Sulawesi Tengah

2 066 000




39 354


Sulawesi Selatan

7 787 000

25 570



171 314


Sulawesi Tenggara

1 772 000

7 974



49 616


Irian Jaya

2 113 000

2 582



31 695


It is likely that the inland capture figures are affected by overall under-reporting. But the extent of this is difficult to assess. The figures for Irian Jaya are certainly an under-estimate. This province has similar characteristics to Papua New Guinea where inland capture production is estimated (based upon extrapolations from sampling survey data) to be 14 500 MT per annum. Correcting for differences in populations, this would give an estimate of about 6 000 MT per annum (2.3 times the official figure). It is highly likely that the existing reports refer mainly to less remote areas and in particular to Lake Sentani near Jayapura.

Table 2.3 provides some estimates of the potential production from inland waters in Indonesia. The estimated potential averages about 65 kg/ha/yr which is likely on the low side, especially for heavily fished floodplains. Even so, the estimates support the view that production from inland capture fisheries is likely, and is feasibly, much higher than official reports suggest. A proper analysis along these lines would need to factor in the effects of environmental degradation on inland waters.

Table 2.3 Indonesian a rea and potential fish yield of open waters (from Sarnita and Djajadiredja, 1968)


Area (ha)

Potential yield (MT per annum)


96 400

30 000 - 35 000


4 053 850

300 000 - 330 000

Bali and Nusa Tenggara


7 000 - 10 000


9 029 000

400 000 - 450 000


492 200

50 000 - 55 000

Maluku and Irian Jaya

63 300

13 000 - 20 000


13 752 250

800 000 - 900 000

5.1.4. Perceptions of inland fisheries and objectives of the statistics

It is no secret in Indonesia that there is limited confidence in the statistics for inland open water (capture) fisheries. The mission was impressed by both the frankness of authorities concerning this issue and the genuine desire to try to improve the situation. The issues are complex because quite probably the reports are meaningful (possibly even representative) in some areas but meaningless in others. But this is unhelpful unless we know for certain which is which.

In common with other countries, Indonesian authorities clearly see inland open water fisheries as being important for food security, nutrition, poverty alleviation in rural areas (etc.); although some impressive commercial/industrial inland capture fisheries occur. They also regard environmental degradation etc., together with sustaining biodiversity in freshwaters, to be major issues but possibly ones for which solutions are largely beyond their control. Aquaculture development is regarded as having a major negative impact on inland capture fisheries. The need for improved co-management approaches for fisheries and environmental management is well recognised.

According to DGCF (2000), the purpose of the fishery statistics for Indonesia is “primarily to provide fishery statistics for the planning of fishery development programmes, evaluation of the progress of fishery development, and stock assessment of fishery resources. However, this book should be of great value also to readers who wish to obtain a picture of the present status of Indonesia fisheries by means of statistics”. But it is difficult to see how the current statistics for inland open water fisheries help achieve these objectives. In fact, by being unable to reflect trends, and thereby intimating there is none, they may be counter-productive in terms of these aims. Although those familiar with the statistics are unlikely to rely unduly upon them, there are those less familiar who do. This is a common problem and as such discussed further in Part I.

5.1.5. Conclusions and recommendations

The Indonesia inland capture fishery statistical system essentially suffers from the application of methods promoted for marine fisheries. More recently, perhaps equally inappropriately, the system has been fine-tuned even further by applying techniques from aquaculture statistics. This history begs the question of whether anybody ever attempted to develop a system designed from the outset for inland waters.

Because of its history, the system is focussed on essentially a catch-effort based approached attempting to calculate, via report sampling, landings based upon knowledge of gears in use, the effort for each gear and catches per unit of effort. In itself, this is not illogical, since all fish are caught through fishing effort. The question is not whether the approach is technically valid but whether it is cost-effective and viable. One clear conclusion from Indonesia is that it probably is neither.

The problem with gear based catch-effort approaches in inland waters include: (i) a tendency to under-report for most of the more productive gears (especially where fees are levied, formally or informally), (ii) the complexities and varieties of gear in use and resulting problems in defining effort for most, (iii) usually larger areas need to be surveyed (in comparison with marine fisheries - where fishing grounds may be bigger but activities are more visible and landing sites are more concentrated), (iv) the lower profile of inland fisheries which tends to reduce investment in and motivation for statistics collection (partly because the statistics themselves do not reinforce the need for investment), and (v) the related problem that inland capture fisheries occur in the same regions (inland) where much aquaculture production arises; normally, where government resources are shared with aquaculture, the latter sub-sector tends to get more attention. This does not mean that gear-based catch effort approaches are not valid for some parts of the fishery. There are clear examples of where the approach might be justified.

The DGCF in Indonesia has already identified that investment in computerising the statistical system will yield rewards in terms of increased efficiency of information compilation, analysis and reporting. The mission agrees. There would appear to also be some opportunities for utilising specialist fishery statistics software (an area in which the mission does not claim expertise). But, importantly, improving this aspect of the statistical system will not improve the quality (validity) of the underlying information. For inland open waters, it will be interesting to see what impact computerisation has. If some districts/sub-districts do actually generate information without sampling (as is thought likely), then computerisation may force them to generate the information at a lower level (i.e. invent actual sampling data). This could be worse.

There are essentially two broad options for improving the relevance of the information collected via the current system: (i) modify the system with a view to obtaining less information but of a higher quality, in particular by sub-dividing the fishery and applying more focussed sampling to each sub-sector (this requires a decent frame survey); and (ii) make higher investments in the overall system (especially increasing the manpower available, and motivation, at sub-district level etc.). Naturally, the Sub-Directorate for Data and Statistics favours the latter. Although the mission is not against such investments in general, it recommends caution before they are made because: (i) there are doubts if substantial investment in the current system would improve the quality of the information (for technical reasons and others outlined here), and (ii) even if it were achieved it may well generate information that is not entirely in-tine with development and management objectives (a subject covered in more detail in Part I).

Improving the specific design of the Indonesian survey methodology is beyond the scope of the current report. That will require considerably more inputs and familiarity with the current system. But some general observations/suggestions can be made. One obvious requirement is to improve the frame survey upon which the actual sampling system is based (a point well known to DGCF already). Without that, further investments in the current system may be inappropriate in any case. It is critical that such a survey be designed specifically to cater for the characteristics of the inland fisheries sector. It should provide, for example, comprehensive details of the distribution, seasonality, locations (habitats), methods and timing of deployment, labour requirements etc. for all major fishing gears. The objective should include identifying those gears operating beyond the household level (e.g. communally, by industrial operations, operators from beyond the sample area etc.) or those highly productive gears used in low numbers that might bias household surveys conducted at random. Obviously, information on these larger gears might be obtained through statistically valid sampling based upon frame survey guidelines based upon modified catch-effort approaches. For the multitude of smaller gears the household sampling approach is very appropriate. It is debatable, however, if estimates of household production should rely on gear based catch-effort approaches. In the mission’s experience, the most practical approach for small-scale fisheries is to have the household itself as the defined unit of effort. With this approach, it makes no difference how the households catch the fish. Basically, household’s catches can be assessed by summating individual household members’ catches (including women and children). Meaningful information on this is not easy to collect and care has to be taken in survey design; questionnaires need to prompt household members on various aspects of potential fisheries activities. But it is no less accurate than asking how much was caught by particular gears and the problems analysing the resulting information are considerably reduced. It may still be useful to gather gear-effort information but it is not essential for the estimation of household catches. Information on gears used is also required to determine or interpret a sampling strategy (particularly where random sampling picks up a low-frequency household using a more productive gear). Care has to be taken when sampling households to obtain information representative of the household as a whole. It is important to include the activities of women and children and persons who are not regarded, or do not regard themselves, as “fishers”.

The most important need for Indonesia, which is in common with the other Southeast Asian countries, is to re-assess the objectives and requirements for information on inland open water fisheries in relation to the general discussion in Part I. There are opportunities for making cost-effective improvements to the current system but it is strongly recommended that this be considered within this much broader framework.

Regarding estimates of the likely production from inland capture fisheries in Indonesia, the most relevant conclusion is that, despite the considerable effort in statistics collection, the answer to that question remains elusive. In addition to doubts about the actual sources of current estimates, the sampling methods will promote under-reporting from the major gears (possibly also for minor ones), almost certainly do not include production from small/informal fishing activities (which cumulatively can be significant) and the sampling frame underlying the whole process likely under-represents inland capture fisheries (probably being more focussed on agriculture and aquaculture considerations). Estimating actual current production is speculative (but so are the current statistics). But based upon the aforementioned considerations and analysis, freshwater resources (although severely degraded in many areas) and inferences from similar fisheries elsewhere (see other sections of this report) it is not unrealistic to suggest that production is at least twice the currently reported level. Guidelines on how to cost-effectively undertake such estimates properly are provided in Part I. But doubling the production estimate does not double the reported value of the fishery (see Part I). To assess that, better information on the levels of dependency on inland open water fisheries is required.

5.2. Malaysia

5.2.1. Background
5.2.2. The statistical collection system
5.2.3. The information produced
5.2.4. Perceptions of inland fisheries and objectives of the statistics
5.2.5. Conclusions and recommendations

5.2.1. Background

Malaysia is one of the more affluent of the countries in Southeast Asia and therefore, as expected, has a more efficient and effective infrastructure than most. There are, however, major differences between peninsular Malaysia and the distant States of Sarawak and Sabah. The latter account for about half of the total land area of the country but only about 20 percent of the total population. The latter States are the poorest in terms of economic development but both have good freshwater resources including several medium to large sized rivers. Water resources on Peninsular Malaysia are heavily impounded and there are large numbers of ex-mining pools or dams.

Malaysia is notable within the countries surveyed for having the most advanced facilities for remote sensing and GIS. The Malaysian Centre for Remote Sensing (MACRES) is an impressive facility available both nationally and regionally. Currently, fisheries applications at this facility are limited to costal zones, particularly aquaculture mapping and planning.

5.2.2. The statistical collection system

Administratively, Malaysia is divided into States (provinces) each divided into clearly demarcated districts, including for inland areas. The State Department of Fisheries has in each district a permanently employed officer who is responsible for compiling statistics (amongst other things). These officers are responsible for compiling statistics for marine capture fisheries, aquaculture and inland capture fisheries. Each district officer reports to the State DOF who then reports to the Federal DOF (Kuala Lumpur) where the statistics are compiled. The Federal DOF has a relatively high degree of control and influence over State DOFs. A good State/district infrastructure exists. Federal DOF has a high degree of confidence in the staff involved and considers them to be comparatively well trained. Training activities continue to upgrade/update skills. Exceptions to this are primarily the large States of Sabah and Sarawak, and likely some minor islands. Here infrastructure is more limited. The problem is compounded by inland capture fisheries and freshwater aquaculture in Sarawak being under the Department of Agriculture. As far as is known, there is basically no effective reporting system for inland capture fisheries for these two States (but time did not allow this to be checked). This is important because these areas have the lowest level of development and the highest availability of inland fishery resources and, hence, are expected to have the biggest inland fisheries.

A special budget appropriation for fishery statistics is made. Annual and comprehensive Fishery statistics are published. District officers “estimate” inland capture fisheries on a monthly basis. The method of estimation involves “visual market surveys, enquiries and observation” but no formal reporting or sampling. In theory, estimates are made by production system: river, ex-mining pools (of which there are numerous), embankments/reservoirs/dams, and others. Estimates are disaggregated (in districts) by species (28 categories included in monthly reports).

Marine capture fishery, and aquaculture, statistics are collected with the same infrastructure and largely by the same personnel. In contrast, to inland capture statistics, those for the marine fisheries and aquaculture are collected through an elaborate and comprehensive system of sampling based upon data collection. These statistics are computerised and considered to be comprehensive. For marine fisheries, information is also collected on numbers of fishers, based upon licensed gears or those working onboard licensed vessels. Aquaculture information includes areas of culture systems, species and marketing data.

5.2.3. The information produced

Population data for Malaysia by State are provided in Table 2.4. Gross production statistics for inland capture fisheries by State are shown in Fig. 2-12. Estimated gross national production varies around 4000 (+ 500) MT per annum over the six years in question. This estimate applies mainly to peninsular Malaysia. The figures agree with those reported to and by FAO. No estimates are available for Sabah and a fixed 1 700 MT per annum is reported for Sarawak 1995-8 which is reduced to 89.6 and 51.1 MT per annum for 1999 and 2000 respectively (undoubtedly a reporting anomaly). When questioned regarding these apparent trends in the production figures, staff at DOF thought these more likely due to reporting constraints than to actual changes in the fishery. For example, the increased reported production for Selangor State in recent years was explained as likely being due to “increased effort to collect data”.

Table 2.4 Population statistics for Malaysia by State (Department of Statistics, 1999)


Population (1991) x 1000











1 364.5




Pulau Pinang

1 116.8





1 974.9





2 413.6




Negeri Sembilan











2 162.4

1 038.4




1 081.1










1 207.7





1 718.4


1 065.8



1 808.8


1 208.3


Kuala Lumpur

5 048










17 098

8 129

8 969

Fig. 2-12 Malaysian inland capture fishery statistics - by State

Reported landings of freshwater fish from inland open waters by province and month for 1998 are shown in Fig. 2-13. These reports clearly do not reflect the seasonal nature of catches from inland fisheries (especially rivers) that are known to occur in the humid tropics. The estimates may have a bias towards landings reports for reservoirs, which are less seasonal. At the very least the estimates for Sabah, where the resource base is definitely dominated by rivers, are not normal for a tropical inland fishery (landings from rivers, floodplains and swamps should show seasonal increases in catches at the onset of the dry season - see reports for Myanmar and Cambodia). It is possible the reports do not include rivers but it is more likely they do not reflect the true nature of the fishery at all.

Fig. 2-13 Malaysian reported landings of freshwater fishes - by province in 1998, by month

Malaysia produces a relatively large number of ornamental fishes for the export trade, mainly through culture especially in Johor, Perak and Selangor States. Department of Fisheries (2001) lists a production in 2000 of 306 million individuals with a reported value of 71.9 million RM (about US$ 18.9 m). However, it is likely that there is also a significant fishery for wild ornamental fishes especially in Sarawak and Sabah but no information on this could be obtained.

Malaysia has a modest open-water stocking programme. Department of Fisheries (2001) lists approximately 4.5 million fish stocked into open water bodies for 2000. The main species are Java Carp, Common Carp, Giant Freshwater Prawn, Red Tilapia, River Catfish and others. This compares with about 17.5 million individuals distributed from government hatcheries to culturists (it is assumed that considerably more are provided by private hatcheries). Fish caught as a result of stocking in open waters are reported as capture fisheries.

Malaysia has significant areas under rice production and the dominant system is wet-rice, mainly irrigated. There appear to be limited attempts to get figures for aquatic animal production from rice fields and it is assumed that this production is not reported. DOF (Kuala Lumpur) consider production of aquatic animals from rice fields to be limited due to the intensified agricultural system and especially the extensive use of pesticides.

Recreational fisheries are undertaking rapid and significant development. A new Act is being developed which covers sport fishing. Whilst marine sport fishing is considered to be a major sector (and possibly is based upon individual license fees) participation in, and gross revenues from, freshwater sport fishing are potentially very significant. Currently, no information is collected or reported on the recreational fishing sub-sector.

Malaysia reports no significant activities or projects in its inland capture fisheries sub-sector except for some local activities relating to attempts at conservation measures for certain threatened freshwater species or stocks. Particular note was made of the problems with the Terubok (Hilsa macrura) fishery, which is suffering from a multitude of problems of over-exploitation and environmental impacts.

Most research on freshwater fishery related issues have focussed on the biology/ecology etc. of fishes and the ecology/limnology of freshwaters. No studies on fishery economics or socio-economics, particularly production estimates, for freshwater fisheries, could be located.

It was reported that “most Malaysians prefer marine fish” but this is difficult to reconcile with prices of freshwater fish reportedly often being higher than for comparable marine grades, especially in the interior.

5.2.4. Perceptions of inland fisheries and objectives of the statistics

Most staff interviewed saw clear distinctions between the inland fisheries situations in peninsular Malaysia versus Sarawak and Sabah. In the former region, although locally important inland capture fisheries for food likely occur, the main areas of interest are biodiversity, environment, rehabilitation/restoration and recreational fisheries. In Sabah and Sarawak, authorities are fully aware that issues include poverty, livelihoods and food security values of inland fisheries.

The existing inland capture fishery statistics appear to have limited, if any, use. They do not form the basis of any current management system and appear, generally, not to form the basis of policy generation (accepting in a negative way - to reinforce the view that the sector is not important). The existing statistics are of no use as a basis for biodiversity/environmental management. There are clearly stated needs for information for policy and management in Sabah and Sarawak but useful statistics may be absent there.

The main threats to inland capture fisheries throughout Malaysia, and especially in Sabah and Sarawak, are perceived by most people interviewed to be due to environmental degradation and habitat loss arising through activities in other sectors.

5.2.5. Conclusions and recommendations

The inland capture fishery statistics in Malaysia are compiled as a secondary activity to the production of information for the marine and aquaculture sectors. Obviously, any system based upon estimates made by district officers in the absence of a statistically based sampling/observation programme, done probably as a secondary activity in most areas, cannot be expected to generate accurately representative information. The skills of staff in estimation would be highly variable. With such systems, at best normally only a cursory estimate of the fishery is made which is normally biased towards the most visible parts of the fishery (both in terms of access by the observer and nature of the activities). In particular, informal fishing activities in rural areas, particularly where fish are not landed at regular sites, and especially for rivers and swamps, are often overlooked. Malaysian authorities are well aware of these constraints.

A general consensus at DOF is that the statistics for peninsular Malaysia under-report actual production by a factor of at least 2 and possibly 3 times. However, even when corrected by an optimistic amount the production remains low relative to the marine and aquaculture sub-sectors. What is intriguing is that despite the entire system being based upon personal estimates, the experienced staff at DOF (whose own personal estimates usually put production much higher) make no attempt to increase the nationally reported estimates to a more realistic level. That is, estimates at district level are treated as though they were actual data, which they are not. The problem here likely stems from having to work within the confines of a national statistical system that, for most information, is based upon statistically valid and assessed data. Appropriately in most cases, this discourages adjustments of figures at higher levels of analysis. But this constrains re-assessments for inland capture fisheries.

For peninsular Malaysia there appears to be limited justification for significant investments in improved statistics aimed at ascertaining gross production through strengthening the existing system. Certainly, this would not be cost-effective in terms of investment returns and it would also yield the wrong information. Where objectives relate to biodiversity/environment issues etc., the information generated should help achieve the relevant objectives. However, gross production figures, even when dis-aggregated by species and production system, are of limited or no use. Investments would be, and are being, more wisely made in the areas of direct monitoring of biodiversity and the environment.

Malaysian authorities already recognise that Sabah and Sarawak are priority areas for improved information in relation to inland capture fisheries. They voiced the opinion that they would like information for those States to be up to the standard for marine fisheries. They are also keen to develop sound pro-poor development policies and resource management plans in these disadvantaged areas. Investments in improved information there are clearly justifiable. In this report, the two States fall into the category of areas where important inland fisheries for food occur but effectively no data currently exist. General recommendations for useful practical methodologies for obtaining cost-effective information, and the kinds of information required, in these circumstances are made in Part I of this report.

A cursory look at Sabah and Sarawak shows a reasonable availability of freshwater resources. The total population of both States is about 2 274 000 with 65 percent living in rural areas. As a guideline, a reasonable average annual per caput 20-40 kg fish captured from freshwaters in such areas (see comparable data for other regions in this report) gives a first guess production estimate of 50 000 to 100 000 MT per annum for the two States combined. This does not fully reflect the true value of the resource (see Part I) but initially indicates that investment in improved information is warranted.

Malaysia is likely to experience the continued rapid development of its recreational fisheries sector and all of the problems and opportunities that this will entail (see Part I). Information requirements and data collection opportunities for recreational (sport) fisheries in inland waters differ significantly to those for capture for food. It is recommended that DOF anticipate these opportunities and develop appropriate information and management systems. These should centre on developing co-management systems by promoting the full participation of resource users who, in this sub-sector, are generally are more enthusiastic and able to co-operate effectively with the government. Additional general comments are made in Part I.

There is considerable potential in Malaysia in utilising the substantial national capacity in remote sensing and GIS to assist with natural resources and inland fisheries mapping and inventories. This approach is particularly useful for obtaining baseline indicative information in areas where limited empirical data exist (see Part I).

5.3. Myanmar

5.3.1. Background
5.3.2. The statistical collection system
5.3.3. The information produced
5.3.4. Perceptions of inland fisheries and objectives of the statistics
5.3.5. Conclusions and recommendations

5.3.1. Background

Myanmar has impressive freshwater capture fisheries. The inland waters are made up mainly of the interlocking/mingling of riverine and estuarine systems of the Ayeyarwaddy (Irrawaddy, 2150 km long), Chindwin (844 km; a tributary of the main Ayeyarwaddy) and Sittaung Rivers (563 km) plus the large Thanlwin River (2400 km) to the east. The first three have adjacent deltas and are arguably part of a larger joint system. Together these systems extend from the eastern part of the Bay of Bengal to the Gulf of Moattama and along the eastern edge of the Andaman Sea. The Ayeyarwaddy River alone has a mean discharge of 13 500 m3.sec-1 from its catchment of 424 000 km2 (Welcomme, 1985), notably, practically all within Myanmar. It shares a watershed with the Mekong River which has only a slightly higher discharge (15 000 m3.sec-1) but a greater length (4880 km2) and larger catchment (795 000 km2) (MRC, 2001). Aquatic resource area of the river systems within Myanmar encompasses a total of 8.2 million hectares (FAO, 1996); there were 53 123 ha of fishponds in 1999. The department of fisheries (DOF) in Yangon give a figure of 6 m ha of floodplains, which likely excludes river area and floodplain lakes. This approaches that of the entire Mekong (7 m ha, MRC, 2001). The country also includes a small section of the Mekong River basin but is not a member of the Mekong River Commission. With a total population of about 50 million, Myanmar potentially has an inland fishery greatly exceeding that of any single national part of the Mekong River basin, and quite feasibly rivals that of the lower Mekong Basin in its entirety. Indeed, in 2000-2001, the reported inland catch for Myanmar, at 235 000 MT per annum (excluding rice-fields and reservoirs), is three times that reported for Cambodia in 1998 and exceeds that reported for Cambodia, Laos and the Mekong sections of Thailand and VietNam combined in that year. Cambodia revised its figures upwards in 1999 as a result of research to verify its previous reporting system. Therefore this comparison is not valid for the 1999 onwards reports for Cambodia.

There are also great similarities in the fisheries of the Ayeyarwaddy and Mekong and the country presents a fascinating opportunity to compare statistics and experiences between these regions.

For management (licensing/regulation) purposes Myanmar divides its inland capture fisheries into two main categories:

(i) Lease fisheries. These are almost exclusively key fishing grounds on floodplains which are primarily fished through the erection of barrage fences around the lease area with fish collected in various collection pens or traps. The peak season involves capturing fishes migrating off the floodplain at the beginning of river draw-down. Lease holders enjoy exclusive rights to fish the lease area including preventing access by others and a certain degree of environmental management and control. This is referred to locally as the “Inn” fishery. For present purposes it is the same as the floodplain (and Great Lake) barrage fishing components of the “Lot” system in Cambodia. There are currently 3 722 leasable fisheries in Myanmar of which 3 490 are still exploitable. Of these, 1 738 (52.3 percent) are located in Ayeyarwaddy Division (the lower floodplains and delta of the river). Leases have been auctioned ever year but DOF are extending the lease period to up to 9 years to promote improved long-term management. There are no government owned leases. A register of leases is kept and details of lease arrangements held on Land Revenue Forms.

(ii) Open fisheries. These are fisheries in all other areas including all types of fishing operation. The right to fish in these areas is licensed out by DOF. All fishing gears require a license. For most this is a set fee. Some of the larger gears, particularly “bagnets” set in rivers (comparable to those used in the lower Mekong), are allocated by a tender system (“tender fisheries”). Fees are variable between regions according to production and capacity. License fees for smaller-gears are low. Although the policy is for complete coverage of licenses for all gears (a monumental task in such a fishery) it was intimated that licenses tend to be neglected for smaller gears and the system concentrates on those people perceived as fishing for “profit”.

Officially, it is a requirement for all licenses that holders report their catches. The entire fishery is closed during June, July and August (to allow spawning and recruitment). In practice this is probably enforced only for the Inn fishery, tender fisheries and larger gears. The small-scale fishery occurs year-round and is considered technically “illegal” during these months.

DOF have recently tested an interesting management approach to lease fisheries whereby a modest 1 percent of the revenue is returned to the fishery through a stocking programme. An impressive 30 percent is however returned in the form of grants to lease holders for improved management. These funds are used mainly for undertaking environmental rehabilitation, restoration or enhancement measures. Common activities include, the clearing of floodplain channels to allow improved access of fish to feeding/breeding grounds, and improved capture, the planting of trees and river bank engineering works using local materials. This is important because the impacts of this appear to be reflected in reported catches. Some trials are also being conducted on rearing fish in pens (1-50 ha) within lease areas. Currently this is done on a modest scale and production within pens is included in production reports for leases (if the activity expands then DOF intend reporting productions separately).

Revenue from the fisheries (1999) were as follows: lease fishery - 621.89 million Kyats; tender fishery - 83.519 million Kyats; implements (gears) (= others) - 6.298 million Kyats.

DOF report that reservoirs are now under the control of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation. Fishing there is now officially not allowed, reportedly as a temporary measure to allow stocks to recover, although it is odd that a significant stocking programme for reservoirs has been on-going. For the current purposes it is sufficient to note that reservoir catches are not included in the current or recent reports. DOF gave an estimation of reservoir and lake area of about 1.8 million ha (which is consistent with the difference between the DOF floodplain estimates and the FAO total resource estimate).

A fledgling freshwater aquarium fish industry was reported. Its extent is unknown but it could be quite significant either potentially or in reality.

5.3.2. The statistical collection system

Administratively the Union of Myanmar is divided into States (and Divisions) - Districts - Townships - Villages. All fishing license holders are required to report their catches to the local township official. For lease fisheries the lease holders keep records and local officers collect these records. No sampling of catches or landings is undertaken. It is however likely that the reporting requirements are enforced, or monitored, predominantly for the larger gears. Some township officers estimate catches themselves. Township offices obtain reports approximately every two weeks and report monthly to the DOF, Yangon. Local officers are expected to check local reports including visiting fishing locations. Rural areas are covered by the local township office. There are 370 townships in the whole country and 110 fisheries township offices. Some township offices cover more than one township. Usually townships with lease fisheries have a resident officer for statistics, including nearly all those in the delta area and Yangon Division. Officers at township level work only part-time on fishery statistics, their other duties including, for example, aquaculture extension. These staff may call upon other officers to gather more statistics when required. There are approximately 90 staff (DOF) in 15 district offices; a total of 70 in the State and Division offices. DOF Yangon is responsible for the nature of information collected and sends summaries to the National Statistics Organisation. Planning and Statistics Division (DOF Yangon) has 19 staff in total.

It was reported that the tax register is used as the basis for a frame survey upon which reporting is based. But the system essentially does not officially involve sampling but is based upon attempted complete-reporting. It is assumed that the tax register is used to assess where reports are expected to be submitted. Again, this suggests a possible emphasis on the more commercial sectors of the fishery.

Licenses for gears normally apply to both the gear type and locations where fishing is allowed. Information disaggregated by production system (habitat) is therefore, in theory, available at local level. Lease fisheries divide their catch reports into two categories by value/quality (high and low). Open fishery reporting is not done by any category. There is therefore limited information on species composition. Although some modest surveys have been done, often by university students etc., DOF are not confident about their information on the composition of catches.

Aquaculture statistics are collected through the same system by the same personnel. Rice field fisheries are not licensed and therefore production is not reported. Production arising from stocking in open waters is reported as “capture”.

Myanmar reports statistics by the fiscal year (April to March).

DOF have stated confidence in their data but appreciate the need for checks/verifications. They stated a need to modernise their system for data collection, storage, handling and reporting. Computerisation is a high priority, but funds are limited. There is a need for training to use specialised fishery statistics software. These problems/needs are common to all sub-sectors of their fisheries reporting system and general assistance from FAO in these respects was requested.

5.3.3. The information produced

The reports for Myanmar, in general, show some interesting trends and features. They may actually represent what may be happening in the fisheries, which is a useful start.

Fig. 2-14 Myanmar - reported production from lease and open fisheries

Reported catches are shown in Fig. 2-14. Although not conclusive, there is an apparent trend of increasing production from 1992-3 to 1998-1999, which may well be in-line with population growth. The reports also suggest that most of the increase in total catches during this period arose from the open fishery, which is logical (access to the lease fishery is controlled but open fisheries are more openly accessible and therefore would reflect increased effort due to population changes more). It is, however, problematic that there is so little difference between years due to natural variations in flooding extent (due to long-term global oscillations in weather). But the reports are a refreshing change from the flat-lines common to many other inland fishery statistics.

Fig. 2-15 Myanmar - numbers of fingerlings stocked

Most interestingly the reports show a significant increase in production from 1998-9 onwards. DOF attribute this to the results of their management activities: restoration/rehabilitation work and in particular stocking. This is likely correct. Reports of fingerlings stocked are shown in Fig. 2-15. Over the period 1997-1998 to 2000-2001 production from lease and open fisheries increased 28 271 and 57 828 MT respectively. From 1994-1995 to 2000-2001 the total number of fingerlings reported to be stocked into lease and open water areas was 335.125 and 363.445 million respectively. This gives an estimated average return per fingerling stocked of 85 g and 159 g for lease and open fisheries respectively. This is not unreasonable, although the environments in question would be expected to harbour a high level of predators. The higher return with open fisheries could be due to differences in fishing methods. Lease fisheries would catch most fish primarily in the same season as stocked. Unfortunately, due to manpower constraints, DOF appear not to have collected adequate information on the composition of catches to be able to confirm links between stocking and production. Obviously, this needs to be done. But the existing reports of stocking and production are not without problems. First, major stocking started in 1994/5 but significantly increased production started only in 1998/9. This delay in benefits is too long. Second, from 1996/7 onwards stocking levels remain fairly uniform but fish production continues to increase (alternatively, the trend in production increase is more smooth than the trend in stocking). The situation is complicated because other enhancement activities were occurring alongside stocking (e.g. environmental rehabilitation). Production can differ significantly between years through natural cycles and such could either mask or enhance the impacts of management. Also, the recent extension of lease periods has encouraged lease holders to undertake their own enhancement and conservation including promoting re-stocking activities. Production reports when based upon stocking programmes can also include a certain amount of subjectivity (anticipation of a response to management measures). Therefore, analysis of the increased production achieved in recent years is very complex. The mission does conclude that the approaches to river fisheries management adopted in Myanmar should indeed produce benefits of the orders being indicated.

The fishery statistics reports certainly suggest that the recent experiences with management approaches with river fisheries in Myanmar warrant further study. They also illustrate the pitfalls of using traditional fishery statistics to obtain feedback on management activities. Clearly, Myanmar needs to compliment the existing information system with a research programme to look deeper into the impacts of stocking and environmental management. But based upon the reported statistics, they are to be complimented on their approach so far. The reported increase in production over the past three years represents an increase of about 45 percent and 65 percent for lease and open fisheries respectively. This is in a fishery that was already large, with a high level of exploitation. To the mission’s knowledge it also eclipses anything ever achieved in aquaculture (when starting from a similar point). Most importantly, this experience annihilates the widely held view that there is no scope to increase production from inland capture fisheries in rivers.

Reported production analysed on a monthly basis showed some encouraging results. Monthly figures over two years for Ayeyarwaddy Division (the heart of the Irrawaddy floodplains/delta) are shown in Fig. 2-16. These show the gross seasonal changes that are expected from floodplain fisheries. The peak catches are reported to occur in September which is when floodplain waters begin to recede and thereafter remain higher, declining towards the dry season to the flood season. The more rapid drop-off in catches from lease fisheries compared to open water fisheries is also entirely logical. The former tend to target fish fleeing the floodplain and heading towards more permanent waters fished more by the latter.

Fig. 2-16 Myanmar - reported production by month for aquaculture, lease and open fisheries (1999-2001) for Ayeyarwaddy Division

It is interesting that the reports show fishing all year-round. It is obvious that the stated “closed” season has little impact on reported production. Also, production from lease fisheries is reported beyond the period of river draw-down which means that the reports cover more than the main lease gear (barrage fences; because these only work for receding floodwaters). Presumably fishing continues in dry season refuges (pools etc.) in lease areas. Also leaseholders may hold fish in pens and sell them later in the year when prices increase. It is also reported that amongst the catch held during the dry season is much smaller fish, which are released again by lease holders at the start of the next flood. This approach is promoted by DOF and is becoming more sustainable in view of the increased duration of leases (giving fishers improved incentives to restock). This illustrates fish stocking undertaken by lease holders and based upon naturally recruited stocking material - a system with much potential for promotion in other countries.

Unfortunately, the reports for aquaculture are incomplete (Fig. 2-16) but there is possibly evidence of the expected inverse relationship between production from capture and culture in such an area. Capture fisheries on river floodplains, during peak periods, will easily out-compete aquaculture in their vicinity, as documented for the lower Mekong. The monthly reports for aquaculture also change abruptly which is likely explained by them representing marketing and not production (e.g. farmers likely hold back produce until prices recover after the influence of seasonal influences from river fisheries). The sudden drop in freshwater capture production in April 2000 is explained by DOF as being due to a sudden increase in production from the marine fishery at that time which depresses fish prices.

But again these reports (Fig. 2-16) are not without problems. Catches outside the period of river draw-down (October - August) appear too consistent (apart from the aforementioned drop in April). Catches would be expected to decline over this period as fish that have retreated into dry season fishing areas are exploited and as they migrate away from the area. (This phenomenon is illustrated for Cambodia later). Significant differences in catches between years, as is apparent in Fig. 2-16, are normal for river fisheries and can reflect natural variations in production. Interpretations here are also complicated by the fact that the reports apply to a fishery where a considerable degree of management effort (stocking/rehabilitation) is being applied.

The average reported production per lease is shown by State/Division in Fig. 2-17. Some States/Divisions away from floodplains have high reported productions per lease. This is possibly because some leases apply to lake areas, likely, for example, in Shan State and Kachin. The odd thing is the low reported production per lease for Ayeyarwaddy, although having over half the total leases since it represents the best fishing grounds. But lease areas there could be on average smaller. It is also reported by DOF that there are some differences between State/Divisions in the allocation of catches from “flood fisheries” (a previous category used until 1991) into lease versus open fisheries.

Fig. 2-17 Myanmar - mean reported production per fishing lease (1999-2000)

Reports of wholesale fish prices (for the 8 highest volume species, excluding prawns) in Yangon markets for 1999-2000 show that the lowest and highest prices for marine fish are only 44 percent and 61 percent, respectively, of those for freshwater fish. These reports confirm experiences in most countries that freshwater fish (by-and-large) are preferred to marine fish; in denial of popular perceptions to the contrary. This is likely due to the majority of people living (or coming from) inland areas (preferring traditionally available fish) but the quality of produce is likely another major factor (inland fish is produced locally and tends to be of better quality).

The reported number of fishers operating in inland waters was 1 398 410; higher than the 1 278 000 in the marine sector, and approximately 3.5 times the number of fish farmers (2000-2001 Fig. 2-18). These figures are entirely logical. Although marine fisheries production is far higher in Myanmar (721 904 MT, 1999), the level of participation in inland fisheries is the key factor. These reports also should be viewed in the light that it is unlikely they represent all inland fishers. In particular, the multitude of small-scale activities are probably not covered. Rice field fishers are definitely not covered and although catches may be low, rice field fishers could outnumber those in open waters and lease fisheries combined; neither are reservoir fishers included. That this section is not included is also indicated by reports for the narrow coastal Division Tanintharyi where fish farmers are reported but no inland fishers. It is a certainty that even coastal areas have people fishing in freshwaters (reports are missing for Rakhine State).

Fig. 2-18 Myanmar - total reported number of fishers and fish farmers (2000-2001)

The mission concludes that there is reason for some confidence in the reports for Myanmar. Despite some difficulties and anomalies, the reports do appear to reflect what is expected to be happening in the fishery and there is reason to believe the reports may be useful for picking-up trends in the fishery (partly because some are already evident). However, giving a picture of the fishery is one thing. Whether they accurately estimate actual production is an entirely different issue. It appears that Myanmar have no actual data based upon sampling the fishery itself (for production, participation or anything else). Obviously, the facts of this matter can only be obtained by having a research programme to investigate and verify the actual figures. But there are good reasons to think that reports are still underestimating the fishery:

It is beyond this report to try to accurately re-calculate catches for Myanmar, an activity that should in any case be done by Myanmar itself. However, it is interesting to note that multiplying the current reports by three (on the basis of experiences in Cambodia) gives a production of about 700 000 MT per annum - excluding reservoirs and rice fields. By taking such approaches, the eventual figure reaches lofty heights, but not unreasonably so. Based on a resource area of about 6 million hectares of floodplain alone, estimated production in Myanmar reaches 900 000 MT per annum based upon figures for capture fisheries for the lower Mekong (150 kg/ha, MRC, 2001). Even very highly degraded floodplains with heavy exploitation may yield in excess of 100 kg per ha (Hoggarth et al., 1999). This brief overview confirms the opening summary of this section, that Myanmar has both the resource area and population to rival the production of the lower Mekong Basin. At the very least, the extent to which this is realised should be investigated through further more detailed analysis and surveys (via methods suggested in Part I of this report).

It is also patently obvious that there is great scope for information exchange between Myanmar and the countries of the lower Mekong Basin (particularly Cambodia, but also VietNam). This is not only for information relevant to interpreting fishery statistics, but also on fisheries management systems, particularly for lease/tender (lot) fisheries.

5.3.4. Perceptions of inland fisheries and objectives of the statistics

DOF Myanmar is already well aware of the importance of their inland capture fisheries. It is regarded, largely, as a sector which has “looked after itself” for a long time, presenting few management problems. The main threat to the fishery is regarded as environmental degradation. Myanmar is also one of the few countries with comprehensive and active involvement in fisheries improvement for its rivers through stocking and rehabilitation/restoration; apparently, with already significant rewards. Inland fisheries are regarded as primarily “for the local people” whereas marine fisheries, and to a large extent commercial aquaculture (especially prawns), are regarded as export earning sectors.

DOF stated that the fishery statistics are used to draw national plans, determine social factors in communities (e.g. consumption/production), understand the biological dynamics of fisheries for management purposes (stock assessment etc.), to monitor supply and demand, and to identify and monitor strategies for increasing production. The information provided through their reporting system meets some of these needs and certainly more so than in some countries. But it clearly falls short for some other requirements. There was stated concern that the reporting system did not adequately satisfy information needs relating to poverty, livelihoods, food security and other such factors.

5.3.5. Conclusions and recommendations

It is obvious that Myanmar needs to undertake some studies to verify the accuracy of their reports, or more likely, to evaluate the extent of under-reporting (see Part I for methods). The information currently produced appears to be of sufficient quality to justify this. However, experiences have shown that obtaining accurate information, particularly with licensed fisheries (and especially lease fisheries) can be problematic. It is essential that verification includes impartiality and is perhaps best done through a research process in small representative areas. Even then it is not easy to get accurate data (see Cambodia in this report). But it would appear that there is potential for Myanmar to justifiably use its fishery statistics for basic management and policy considerations, provided they are verified, checked and re-assessed. The important issue is not whether the statistics are accurate but whether they are representative (i.e. to what extent they represent a sample of the fishery). With reasonable information, inaccuracy can be accounted for once the sources of errors are known.

The current reports have limited use for the purposes of assessing management inputs, including assessing the impacts of stocking and other forms of enhancement. For these considerations, precise information on catches, and species composition, is required. Again, this might be obtained through targeted research initiatives and it may not be necessary, or feasible, to modify the entire reporting system to meet these requirements.

One way of investigating the relevance of reports for lease fisheries is to analyse relationships between lease areas (for equivalent habitats), lease fees and reported production. There are logical biological and economic relationships between these factors. Deviations from these are an indication of anomalies in reporting. This should be done and is a relatively low-cost exercise. If research is eventually done to verify production, then these parameters can also be used to extrapolate from researched areas to the fishery as a whole.

The fishery statistical system in Myanmar is based primarily upon a method of revenue generation. The country has already been complimented on its willingness to reinvest some of that revenue back into the fishery. But the issues of statistics and revenue are difficult to divorce. From a purely statistical perspective, a shift from quantity to quality of information would certainly be a benefit. If information is available on the relative abundance of some of the more prominent gears, it is not necessary to have catch reports from them all. But the system in Myanmar still requires near full coverage (at least for the commercial gears) for licensing purposes. The problem then is that it is difficult, without significant increases in investments, to shift the emphasis to a smaller sample in order to get better quality reports. There are also doubts about whether such can be achieved based upon the current reporting approaches. But certainly, for the smaller gears, there is a point at which the costs of collecting licenses outweigh the benefits in terms of revenue (a stage probably already reached, possibly surpassed, in Myanmar). Under such circumstances it is better to have more open policies, which acknowledge the realities of inland fisheries and thereby promote new ways of obtaining fisheries information and less rigid ways of considering existing statistics. A basic problem with the system in Myanmar is not that the reports miss certain parts of the fishery (which almost any system would) but that it portrays itself (officially) as covering it all. And the latter makes it difficult to adjust the figures by acknowledging incomplete coverage.

The strategy of Myanmar should obviously to be to improve its existing reporting system where possible but also to consider inland capture fisheries information more broadly (for example, whether the information collected meets management requirements). The latter is crucial if significant new investments are to be made. Both aspects are discussed in more detail in Part I.

5.4. Philippines

5.4.1. Background
5.4.2.The statistical collection system
5.4.3.The information produced
5.4.4. Perceptions of inland fisheries and objectives of the statistics
5.4.5. Conclusions and recommendations

5.4.1. Background

Philippines was visited only briefly and as part of a second mission to formulate a proposed TCP to improve the quality of information for inland fisheries. Brief details of the statistical system in operation, and the information produced, were subsequently included here. The mission was unable to explore the system or data produced in as much detail as for the other countries.

The Philippines is a country composed of many islands, only a few of which are of any size. Not surprisingly its fisheries are certainly dominated by the marine capture sub-sector. Aquaculture is also well developed and has a long tradition in the Philippines which ranks in the top 10 of the world’s producers. Even so, the Philippines were ranked fourth in Southeast Asia in 1999 in terms of reported catches from inland waters.

All inland waters are extensively fished. The main producing areas centre on the larger lakes including Laguna de Bay (89 076 ha) and San Pablo Lake in Laguna; Taal Lake (24 356 ha) in Batangas; and Lake Bato (3 792 ha) in Bicol. Most rivers in the Philippines are now highly degraded, as are the lakes. A recent natural volcanic eruption has decimated the inland fisheries in some of these areas.

According to the Philippines Fisheries Code of 1998, inland fisheries occur in freshwater and brackishwater. Resource areas are shown in Table 2.5. The 1998 Fisheries Code is very comprehensive. Municipal/City Governments have jurisdiction over municipal waters as defined by the code. This includes all inland areas. In addition to problems of pollution and over-exploitation of inland waters there are severe conflicts of interest between capture and culture considerations in inland areas. For example, the extensive development of fish pens in inland waters has limited access to resources by capture fishers.

Table 2.5 Inland fishery resource areas in the Philippines (ha)



1. Swamplands

246 063


106 328


139 735

2. Existing fishpond

253 854


14 531


239 323

3. Other Inland Resources

250 000


200 000


31 000


19 000

The Philippines has much involvement in “coastal zone management” with many past, current and pipeline projects devoted to this subject. However, there is no parallel for coastal zone management for inland areas, despite the increased environmental and resources management problems there.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has undertaken some studies on inland capture fisheries management. One division is engaged in capture fisheries in inland waters but works mainly on fishing technology. Some biological and fisheries assessments studies have recently been undertaken in 7 major lakes. Some livelihoods aspects were covered. The final report on this is pending. There has been a National Stock Assessment Project for Marine Fisheries but not for inland fisheries. In general, for inland fisheries there has been only a limited programme/involvement in biological aspects and very little on socio-economics etc.

5.4.2.The statistical collection system

BFAR is the main government agency responsible for fisheries and has the responsibility for management and development. However, responsibility for statistical data collection rests with the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS). Both BFAR and BAS are under the Department of Agriculture. BFAR has a major role in determining the nature of statistics to be collected but the implementation of surveys, including appropriate methods, is determined mainly by BAS. BFAR is supplied with statistics by BAS.

The statistical system used by BAS in general focuses on monitoring landings at a sample of landings sites. However, this information for the inland fishery is supposedly supplemented by a sample survey of households.

The sampling method is simple random sampling of landing centres by province, and simple random sampling of households. The sampling frame for the latter is a listing of municipal fishing households conducted nationwide in 1992. The basis of this frame for the household survey is not clear. Households are stratified by fishing grounds (lake, reservoir, river etc.). According to BAS, for inland fish producing provinces, about 2123 “fishing households” were interviewed in 1997 out of the 34 000 inland fishing households “listed” nationwide. It is unclear how the definition of an “inland fish producing province” is derived or what constitutes a “fishing household”. The reported system is confusing because a random sample of all households should be what determines which are involved in fishing and which are not. It is not possible, for example, to have truly random sampling of “fishing households” unless those households fishing, and not fishing, are already known. And that information should be gathered frequently because participation in inland fisheries by households can vary significantly between years in response to a number of factors. It is, however, highly likely that the choice of the sampling pool of households is based upon fishing gear records or records of some other attribute of the fishery recorded in the 1992 survey. The system is, therefore, probably not random but based upon random sampling of a pre-determined section of the fishery (which in any case is now out of date). This can cause serious problems. For example: In Thailand in many areas only about 5 percent of households involved in the inland capture fishery use licensed gears, sampling those households is, therefore, fairly irrelevant to assessing the extent of the fishery; in Indonesia, as likely elsewhere in Southeast Asia, there was a reported increase in involvement in inland capture fisheries of an estimated 40 percent as a result of the economic crisis of 1997, therefore a frame survey undertaken in 1992 is unlikely to be an accurate basis the frame for the Philippines for recent surveys. The frame survey for inland fisheries is apparently being updated.

Surveys are organised by Municipal Officers but based upon hiring labour specifically to undertake surveys. Data collectors are paid per operator interviewed. They are trained and supervised for one week. Surveys last 15 days and the inland capture survey is supposed to be undertaken every three months, simultaneously with the aquaculture survey. The frame upon which aquaculture statistics are gathered was recently redesigned by BFAR. A farm inventory is planned for next year (designed by BFAR, implemented by BAS).

Two basic approaches are taken to obtaining capture fishery statistics for inland waters:

(1) The frame survey of inland municipal fisheries.

For the survey of municipal fish landing centres the frame is the List of Inland Municipal Fish Landing Centres (for provinces with LC’s). Information collected includes: landing centre category; unloading information; number of boats; daily volume of catch; fishing gears and fishing ground; species. The frequency of data collection is officially a three times a week interview of fishing boat owners or fisherman at sample fish landing centres during peak hours of unloading (for landings centres).

For provinces without Landings Centres, a survey of landings by household is undertaken. For this the frame is the List of Fishing Households (1992). Information obtained includes: unloading information; daily volume of catch; fishing gears and fishing ground; species.

Survey forms for the household survey are based upon questions directed at individuals in the household (presumably the head fisherman); a system which elsewhere has been shown to seriously underestimate household catches because respondents tend to report only their own catch. Questions are asked on fishing ground, fishing gear, species caught, monthly average catch and price information, total number of fishing days, daily average fish catch, average price per kg and remarks. The whole survey is based upon quarterly recall by respondents.

According to the survey manual, inland fishing is defined as “the catching of fish, crustaceans, molluscs and all other aquatic animals and plants in inland water like lakes, rivers, dams, marshes, etc., using simple gears and fishing boats some of which are non-motorised with a capacity of less than three (3) gross MT; or fishing not requiring the use of fishing boats”. Inland waters are defined as “a body of water within the shoreline which includes brackishwater and freshwater, such as lakes, rivers, reservoirs/dams, etc.” Fishing ground codes in use include “rivers, lakes, swamps/marshes/lagoon, dams/reservoir/irrigation/swim, others (includes creeks, rice-fields, channel, spring, stream, drainage etc.)”. The list of freshwater species on forms includes only 20 fishes, 7 crustaceans and 4 molluscs.

2. Non probability surveys

This occurs when scheduled sampling surveys (as above) cannot be undertaken. With non-probability surveys, trends in fish production and price are monitored through interviews with key informants. For inland capture fisheries these include: fishers, fish vendors and boat owners. The system is obviously subjective and also does not capture any information on entry into and exit from the fishery.

BAS has experienced severe budget reductions from 1995 to date. Consequently, due to insufficiency and delay in the release of funds, estimates have recently been generated based on surveys with reduced sample sizes and/or monitoring activities with key informants as respondents. The results of limited probability and non-probability surveys were the basis of generating fishery statistics for the provinces since at least 1995. BAS report that “normally, the information for inland capture fisheries is based upon key informants”.

Currently BAS is designing an inland fishery statistical survey for 29 provinces. But this assumes that it will get adequate funding.

Data processing systems appear to be in place and functioning reasonably well. The statistical system is de-centralised to provinces/municipalities. Availability of computer hardware is limited in provinces. The database system was prepared by BAS data programmers etc.

All production from rice-fields is recorded under culture.

5.4.3.The information produced

Reported production from inland capture fisheries is shown in Fig. 2-19. A gradual decrease in production is evident from these reports and this is widely attributed to be due to over-exploitation and habitat/environmental degradation. However, it should be noted that the accuracy of these statistics is unknown. Certainly, from at least 1995 these reports are based mainly upon the perceptions of key informants and not upon statistically valid data.

Fig. 2-19 Philippines - reported production from inland capture fisheries

Inland municipal fish production by fisheries region is shown in Table 2.6. Over the 5 years covered in Table 2.6, 78 percent of the landings were from one fisheries region (Southern Tagalog).

Table 2.6 Philippines - inland municipal capture fisheries production by region (MT).







CAR National Capitol






I Cordillera Administrative

2 190

3 766

1 421

1 274

1 080

II Cagayan Valley

4 226

3 670

4 769

4 829

4 762

III Central Luzon

2 903

3 886

4 377

4 488

3 995

IV Southern Tagalog

161 192

167 357

148 395

139 731

120 085

V Bicol






VI Western Visayas

3 038

4 144

3 335

2 779

2 288

VII Central Visayas






VIII Eastern Visayas






IX Western Mindanao






X Northern Mindanao






XI Southern Mindanao






XII Central Mindanao

8 308

2 969

3 428

3 432

6 713

XIII Caraga

9 382

5 516

6 763

6 555

5 227

ARMM Autonomous Muslim Mindanao

17 508

12 763

11 985

12 706

13 486


210 775

205 731

186 674

177 940

159 739

Inland municipal capture fisheries production by species category is shown in Table 2.7. Molluscs, fish and crustaceans account for 66.8 percent, 30.8 percent and 2.4 percent respectively of the reported catches over the five years in question. The high contribution of molluscs to the catches presumably reflects some inclusion of fishing in bays and estuaries although molluscs can also be important in purely freshwater areas. Including molluscs in gross statistics in this fashion can be misleading since a large proportion of the weight is composed of shells. The contribution of molluscs to food supply is therefore seriously overestimated based upon gross weight. But on the contrary, molluscs can have a high commercial value. These data on composition should be investigated in more detail and in particular to separate the molluscs by species (if possible) and in particular to separate brackishwater and freshwater types. However, what is most relevant about these statistics for current purposes, is that such high productions of molluscs from inland fisheries appear to be absent from the production statistics for most other countries. This is likely because production of molluscs is not being properly recorded. There appears no reason to believe that fisheries for molluscs in the Philippines are particularly unique to that area.

Table 2.7 Philippines - composition of inland capture fisheries production from municipal fisheries (MT).








70 980

52 321

60 340

49 083

52 929


4 904

6 223

5 651

6 217

4 969


134 891

147 187

120 683

122 640

101 841


210 775

205 731

186 674

177 940

159 739

Although there is widespread attention to tilapia farming in the Philippines, it is interesting to note that in 1997, for example, about 35 percent of the total national freshwater production of tilapia arose from capture fisheries (Table 2.8); and the latter production is likely underestimated. Similarly, production from capture fisheries for four other cultured groups greatly exceeds that from aquaculture (Table 2.8). This capture production would mainly include the exploitation of feral/wild populations but also some fish escaping from aquaculture establishments.

Table 2.8 Philippines - contributions to reported production of selected species by production system, capture versus culture, for 1997

Species group

Capture fishery

Aquaculture production


20 935

39 005

Carps (all kinds)

5 717



4 547

2 144

Hito (freshwater catfish)

2 396

1 052


2 065


5.4.4. Perceptions of inland fisheries and objectives of the statistics

According to the BAS manual for the inland fisheries survey, “For the past years, inland fishing has contributed significantly to total fish production. The existing fishery household-based survey has generated statistics monitoring the levels of production. Ultimately, the sub-sector will provide the necessary data input for effective policy formulation particularly regarding food security concerns”. Unfortunately, the household surveys are unlikely to meet these objectives since they are not being undertaken fully due to funding constraints and data collected on food security aspects is very limited in any case.

The Director of BFAR noted the marked shift from capture to culture that has occurred in inland areas in the Philippines. But in some areas, capture fisheries are still important. BFAR is very supportive of the need to improve data/information. In particular, improved information on vulnerable species, the impacts of introduced species and the importance of inland fisheries for livelihoods and development in rural areas is required. BFAR has strong emphasis on these aspects. Even if undertaken fully, the existing survey methods do not generate adequate information in these respects. There is also a need to delineate areas for fisheries versus culture in order to minimise conflicts between the two sub-sectors. Information is required that is relevant to achieving this aim. This is not currently being generated.

BFAR is currently “not happy” with the quality of inland statistics. BAS agrees, but lays the blame more squarely upon funding problems. BFAR also note that the quality of contracted survey personnel is also a problem. Technical interpretations of the statistics are, therefore, constrained. For example, BFAR staff expect high productions from some regions seasonally but this is not “reflected in reports”.

BFAR also regard much of the statistics reported in the field to be based upon projections and not upon reality. They also reported widespread “doctoring” of data to meet production targets. In addition, BFAR suspects wide discrepancies from respondents who do not declare actual harvest for reasons of taxation.

It would appear that the statistics for inland capture fisheries serve no real purpose except to form the basis of national reporting requirements. There appear to be no major national or provincial inland capture fisheries management or development programmes, and certainly none using the statistics as the basis either for policy development or monitoring. Several commentators noted that the inland fishery statistics for the Philippines have little more than “cosmetic” value.

5.4.5. Conclusions and recommendations

The Philippines inland fishery statistics, in common with all countries, suffer from the attempted application of marine statistical system to inland waters. It provides yet another example of the pitfalls in doing this. Statistical systems based upon landing records, particularly at official landing sites, are especially inappropriate for inland fisheries, largely because, in general, most fish tends not to be landed at official sites (depending upon the area in question). However, the Philippines are to be complimented by adding to their system a survey of household activities for inland fisheries. Unfortunately, this progress is undermined by the doubtful basis of the frame underlying this survey and the practicalities of implementing the surveys, including funding constraints. This also illustrates the dangers of designing statistical systems that rely upon substantial manpower (funding) to undertake them. These systems do not work, and are statistically invalid, under circumstances where designed sample sizes and strategies are not maintained. The result, as has occurred recently in the Philippines, is the continued production of statistics in which there is little confidence.

It is difficult to assess the Philippine statistics based upon the current brief overview. However, even if the statistical surveys were to be implemented according to plan, it is highly likely that the system would still produce gross underreporting from three main sources: (1) inadequacies of the frame underlying the household survey, (2) household surveys focussing on the main fisher as the respondent (a system which tends to exclude informal fishers in the household), and (3) likely deliberate underreporting by respondents. Added to this must be the consideration that in recent times the surveys have been inadequate in terms of coverage and/or based mainly upon the views of trends supplied by key informants. Consequently, it is difficult to assess what the likely figure for inland capture fisheries production for the Philippines actually is. It is also difficult to assess if the recent reported decline in production is realistic. In terms of recommendations for improvements to the system, most of the general comments made in Part I of this report apply to the Philippines.

5.5. Thailand

5.5.1. Background
5.5.2. The statistical collection system
5.5.3. The information produced
5.5.4. Perceptions of inland fisheries and objectives of the statistics
5.5.5. Conclusions and recommendations

5.5.1. Background

Thailand is amongst the economically better developed countries in Southeast Asia having undertaken rapid development in the past 30 or so years. However, economic well-being is not evenly distributed. In particular, the northern and north-east regions are economically depressed by comparison with the south and in particular in the vicinity of Bangkok. It is an environmentally diverse country and can be roughly divided into the northern section representing the main land mass and the southern peninsular bordering Myanmar and leading into Malaysia. Most rivers in Thailand have been dammed and consequently the country has a large number of reservoirs ranging from very small to extremely large. There are two significant drainage basins, both with large rivers. That draining N.W. Thailand enters the Chao Phraya system. Its upper catchment is a mountainous area, remote in places, and some sub-catchments are still in reasonable environmental condition. The lower Chao Phraya, however, drains most of the key industrial areas of Thailand including the massive urban area of Bangkok. Consequently it is highly degraded in its lower reaches. The N.E. section (“Isaan”) contributes about 184 000 km2 to the catchment of the Mekong River which forms the international border with Lao PDR for a considerable distance. This is about 36 percent of the total area of the country. Thailand contributes about 18 percent to the total annual flow of the lower Mekong River. In Isaan, the major sub-catchments are the Mun-Chi basin and the Songkhram River basin. Of all the main tributaries of the Mekong originating in Thailand, the Songkhram is the only one still without a mainstream dam (although it has a considerable number of small dams on tributaries). Despite the extent of damming, recent remote sensing images confirm that N.E. Thailand still has considerable areas of seasonal wetlands (flooded areas). These are obviously located in flat areas and flooded mainly from local rains. Much of this area is already converted to rice agriculture with a substantial degree of irrigation development. Thailand is a major exporter of rice. Most of the lowlands of Thailand are already converted to intensive agricultural uses. Much environmental degradation of rivers has occurred. A reasonable catchment and floodplain system still occurs in the Songkhram and particular the Yom River (a tributary of the Chao Phraya) plus some other localised areas. All of the latter areas still have important and vibrant fisheries. Fisheries in degraded areas, even if a shadow of their former status, are still present. Fishing is a very popular activity in Thailand, having a long tradition. It is considered an integral part of the heritage/culture, particularly in rural areas.

Thailand has a rapidly growing sport/recreational fisheries sector of substantial proportions but it is currently un-quantified. A cursory look in larger supermarkets or department stores will usually reveal angling to be the largest amongst the sporting sections. And most equipment on sale is for use in inland waters. In most rural areas, particularly on holidays, most accessible waters are literally awash with fishers. Often the division between these by motivation (food, income or leisure) is difficult to make. Similarly, the country (in common with most economies in transition) has a very significant ornamental fish industry. The extent to which this relies upon domestic inland capture fisheries is not known, but a proportion of catches from rivers and swamps does certainly enter this industry.

Thailand has a very extensive stocking programme. This has concentrated on reservoirs and rice-fields but also includes rivers and swamps. Largely, stocking is seen as a means of providing benefits to poor communities. There is very limited information on the benefits of stocking in open waters.

Fisheries development has focussed on promoting aquaculture (with some considerable success over the past 15 years) and the management of reservoir fisheries. River and swamp fisheries have largely been ignored, apart from localised research on biology, ecology and limnology. This policy arose partly through insufficient appreciation of both the extent and importance of river fisheries but more so through the perception that little could be done to improve them, particularly in the face of rapid environmental degradation arising from water utilisation and pollution from other sectors. The policy has been very much one of trying to compensate for this trend by undertaking mitigation stocking and developing reservoir fisheries, with aquaculture successfully boosting total production and leading exports from the inland sector. But there is clear evidence of late of changes in attitude. NGO’s and local communities are becoming increasingly more influential. Their attentions focus on social justice, livelihoods, biodiversity and the environment. DOF is already aware of and responding to these changes. This is evident, for example, in the growing recognition of the importance of inland capture fisheries (including reservoirs, rivers, swamps, rice fields etc.) to poverty reduction, livelihoods and environmental issues. Co-management is promoted, as is attention to environmental rehabilitation. Thailand represents an interesting case in terms of its inland capture fishery statistics, not dissimilar to Malaysia. Not only does the country have a (relatively) good infrastructure and human and financial resources, it is also at a watershed in terms of re-defining the role of government and fisheries in inland areas.

5.5.2. The statistical collection system

Each province has a fisheries office with one “statistician” (often a substitute). Each year this person is in-charge of collecting the statistics. Actual information is collected by fisheries extension officers, based at district level, in close co-operation with officials at village level. Provinces send the information to the Division of Fishery Economics, Statistics Sub-Division, at DOF (Bangkok). This Division is in-charge of the information system. They forward the reports to FAO and to the national statistics authority (The National Statistics Office, Office of the Prime Minister).

The sampling strategy is based upon water body size (0-5, 5-10, 10-50, 50+ rai[4]). Information is collected by sampling approximately “10 percent” of each category. At each a survey is undertaken by asking a person about production. The person can be anybody considered knowledgeable: professional fisher, local official etc. For each interview, a pre-designed information form is used. This contains sections for gear types used, number of fishers, catches per person per year, total catches (estimated from the former), remarks, and for estimated species composition of total catches (in weight and value). Information requested covers a full year (yearly recall) but is not recorded by month. The total information sample is collected over a period of about 3-4 months during the dry season (February-May).

Water bodies are divided into three categories: (1) reservoirs and irrigation ponds, (2) village ponds (=communal/open access areas, not aquaculture ponds) and (3) “natural” water bodies (including rivers, swamps, streams and canals).

Production statistics are extrapolated largely based upon resource areas. The reservoir survey includes both natural lakes and man-made reservoirs. Seven species and five species groups are distinguished in this survey. Production is calculated on the basis of a nationwide inventory of water bodies, which is updated every five years. Total production for a particular water body is estimated in the above fashion, in close collaboration with local officials. The basis of this appears to be using both or either (i) estimated catches per unit effort related to total effort, and (ii) catches per unit area related to total area. DOF are confident they know the numbers of fishers operating in reservoirs and can calculate yield on this basis. In addition, in the larger reservoirs, landing statistics are gathered from middlemen on a weekly basis. For some of the larger reservoirs, catches are estimated solely through landings records. DOF estimate that based upon previous surveys, about 75 percent of the catch goes through official landing sites. For example, surveys at Ubolratana Reservoir have shown that about 17 percent of the catch goes for family consumption. In reservoirs, “small-scale” production is estimated by subtracting recorded landings from total estimated production. Species composition information is supplemented by observations at landing sites. There is no actual sampling of catches or landings.

In addition, DOF have some estimates of production from dry season “pond-traps” which require a license. (These are large dry season depressions, which trap fish as they retreat from flooded areas. They are fished with a variety of gears). Owners of flooded land will often construct pond traps. Some are natural dry season refuges. Some other types of inland fishing methods/gears require a license (e.g. barrage fences) but no catch data are collected. There is widespread non-compliance with licensing requirements in inland waters.

The system for aquaculture is very similar with 10 percent of installations being sampled against inventories held at village/district level. Estimates are based upon yearly reports of production, species, prices and stocking information. Since aquaculture installations are more visible and in fixed locations (compared with fishing operations in open waters), the aquaculture statistics are likely more robust.

Notably, no surveys are conducted for “natural” water bodies (particularly rivers and swamps). In some areas, total production for rivers and canals is estimated by provincial officers based on estimates of standing stock and average yield per unit area (reportedly derived from both previous studies the extent of which is unknown to the mission, and the experience of the officer). The actual methodology involved is unclear. But it is extremely unlikely such an approach gives accurate estimates for rivers, especially floodplain fisheries, particularly as accurate data for riverine fisheries production are rare. It is unclear if floodplain (swamp) fisheries are included under “rivers”, but they are quite possibly often not included at all.

The fishery production estimates (capture and culture) are discussed at a meeting at the sub-district level before being submitted to the province; a system which reflects the possibly arbitrary nature of some parts of the estimation process. Provincial officers send the information to DOF (Bangkok) where it is compiled, edited, processed, encoded, and analysed with the aid of a UNIX based system for input and retrieval. DOF have developed their own software for this purpose.

DOF report that estimates vary considerably in quality. Statistics collection personnel have a low status (pay) and continuity of personnel involved is a major problem. Staff at lower levels than the province do not receive special pay for information collection and it is unlikely that this system encourages accuracy of the estimates.

The National Statistical Office is responsible for conducting the marine fishery census every 10 years. There is no comparable census in operation for inland fisheries (particularly for rivers). The Conservation Division of DOF reportedly initiated data collection from some important landing sites in the Mekong since 1995. These estimates are incorporated into the production figures for 1997 onwards.

Production from estuaries and mangrove areas is reported under coastal fisheries production. “Inland” catches are considered to be those exclusively from freshwater. This is not a problem for the north of the country (as there is no coast) but it can be assumed that a significant proportion of the inland catch (i.e. that not caught in the sea) from coastal areas in the south is reported under coastal fisheries. This can only contribute to downgrading the perceptions of the importance of the inland sector.

Production from rice-fields is reported exclusively as aquaculture - irrespective of the production system (e.g. stocked or natural recruitment). DOF consider that most production now arises through stocking activities anyway although their statistical system is not accurate enough to verify this. Even so, a considerable proportion may still arise through capture fishery related activities. Again, this information policy is to the detriment of capture activities.

There are obviously some serious potential problems with this statistical system. Not least of these is the virtual absence of sampling based information on river/floodplain fisheries. A major potential source of error is also with the inventory of water bodies. Obtaining such information, especially for small water bodies, is quite difficult. Additional constraints include problems with recall and estimations made by respondents. Although some people are good at this, many are not, and almost all under-estimate small-scale production. DOF also admit that their system favours commercial/professional fishers simply because they are more visible and accessible. However, the most serious potential problem is possibly the issue of impartiality of information collection. Provincial fisheries offices (and national DOF) spend a considerable part of their budget on the stocking programme. Often the same personnel involved in stocking are involved in statistics collection. In many countries this leads to mis-reporting through either attempts to disguise discrepancies between reported stocking and actual stocking (it is not known if this occurs in Thailand) or simply through more benign over-optimism on the impacts of their activities. The statistical system in force in Thailand is highly subjective and therefore very vulnerable to this kind of misreporting.

A further problem is that the statistical system is very much production oriented. There appears to be limited information collected on participation in fisheries (including catching, processing and marketing). Again, the best information here is for reservoirs where numbers of commercial/professional fishers are thought to be known reasonably well. There is some information on river fisheries based upon numbers of licensed gears but this is likely meaningless considering the level of non-compliance and the gear categories themselves being unrepresentative of the fishery as a whole.

5.5.3. The information produced

Reported catches from inland capture fisheries over the recent 10 year period are shown in Fig. 2-20. As explained, it is believed that these reports reflect mainly production from reservoirs. The overall trend for increasing production (average 136 272MT during 1990-2, to 200 364MT during 1997-9) is explained by DOF as due to stocking. This represents an increase in production of about 47 percent over the ten years in question, which is well within the limits of reason considering the stocking effort. There is, however, no way to check if these reports are accurate (which in any case should be done by DOF not the mission). There is currently no reason to assume that the reports are not representative of the general fisheries situation in reservoirs (within the limits of the constraints to the statistical system as described).

Fig. 2-20 Thailand - reported total inland catches

The problem is, of course, how to assess the likely errors due to not properly including reasonable figures for fisheries outside reservoirs. This can only be done, initially, by using cost-effective techniques as outlined in Part I. Some indications of likely errors can be suggested here:

Virapat et al. (2000) give an estimated inventory of 28 956 reservoirs in Thailand ranging from 0.01 to more than 1000 ha. They estimate production from these reservoirs, using similar methods to DOF (i.e. extrapolations based upon reservoir inventories and yield) to be between 122 314 and 318 909 MT. This in fact confirms that the official statistics (Fig. 2-19) likely refer to reservoirs almost exclusively. The same report also describes reservoir fisheries as being the same as “inland capture fisheries” (production from reservoirs is discussed and reported as total production from inland capture fisheries). This confirms that the perception of inland capture fisheries in Thailand is one of reservoirs. Whilst reservoirs are obviously important, as the aforementioned inventory shows, Thailand in fact does still have considerable river and swamp fisheries, plus some production from rice-fields. In addition, production from inland brackish-water areas is reported as coastal fisheries production.

A recent detailed survey of the Songkhram River Basin in N. E. Thailand (Department of Fisheries, unpublished) has produced much valuable information on fisheries in rivers and floodplains/swamps. The survey was based on reports from villages and random sampling of a statistically valid sample of households. Over 40 percent of village leaders reported that capture fisheries were important in their village for income. Overall, more than 60 percent of households in the Songkhram River basin are involved in capture fisheries. The average catch per fishing household was 224 kg per year. The proportion of the total catch taken from various habitats was as follows: rivers, streams and canals - 34.23 percent; swamps/marsh (floodplain) - 31.32 percent; rice-fields - 22.18 percent; reservoirs - 8.27 percent; lakes - 2.06 percent; aquaculture ponds - 1.97 percent. These figures confirm that capture fisheries in such areas are not only important but cumulatively produce large catches. Production from capture greatly exceeds that from aquaculture. Although the area is notable for still having reasonable floodplains (although a relatively short flood season) catches from river channels and rice-fields are still significant. Production from rice-fields (which in this area generally are not stocked) averages about 50 kg/household/year (but this includes all households, production for rice-farming households has yet to be estimated). These figures are important when considering the potential extent of inland capture fisheries elsewhere in rural Thailand. Although the Songkhram river has no major dam (reservoir) the extent of fishing in rivers, smaller water bodies and rice-fields is likely not untypical of Thailand.

The potential degree of underreporting in the official statistics is also illustrated by the fact that only 5.5 percent of households listed fishing as the main occupation but 57 percent of households list that part-time fishing is important. But the official fishery statistics are based solely upon households where fishing is the main occupation.

It is widely held that dams have significantly reduced fisheries in major rivers in Thailand. This is probably true and has certainly been used as a major reason to devote most attention to reservoir fisheries and aquaculture. However, the impacts of dams on flooding and river fisheries and upon migratory fish stocks are mainly downstream. Much of the capture fisheries activities in rivers occur in side branches and local swamps and other discrete water bodies where longitudinal migrations (along rivers) are less important. Recent flood cover maps of Thailand show that much of the country is still flooded (including in rivers with major dams). Although the major river floodplains have been severely reduced and degraded, localised rainfall still produces large expanses of freshwater habitat available for fishing. Much of this is rice-fields and canals associated with them. But there are still large cumulative areas of smaller rivers, localised swamps and marshes etc.

What is a reasonable guess as to the possible production for inland capture fisheries in Thailand? This is highly speculative largely because much of the freshwater resources are degraded and the economy is relatively well developed (which tends to down-grade involvement in fishing for income and/or food). But Thailand still has large relatively poor rural populations. For freshwaters alone, a conservative figure of 10 million relatively (i.e. within Thailand) poorer rural people catching an average of between 20 and 50 kg per caput per year (outside reservoirs) gives an annual production of 200 000 to 500 000 MT (these indicative catches are not unrealistic; it is 20 kg per caput for river fisheries in the remote mountain areas in Lao PDR, which are not dissimilar to mountainous areas in Thailand, and more than 50 kg per caput for the Songkhram river which is probably typical for rural Thailand). Added to this would be that part of the coastal (brackish-water) fishery caught inland, which would also be significant.

These examples do at least show that it would be worthwhile to properly undertake a re-assessment of production estimates for inland capture fisheries in Thailand for areas outside reservoirs. This can be done relatively easily and Thailand has good GIS and remote sensing information and expertise to assist these efforts. This should be done in a more formal and thorough way than presented here. Further recommendations are made in Part I.

5.5.4. Perceptions of inland fisheries and objectives of the statistics

In Thailand, inland capture fisheries are regarded as activities undertaken by the poor in rural areas (there are some exceptions but this is mainly correct). They are important for food production and security and have some “economic” importance for household incomes etc. It was clearly stated that inland fisheries in these terms were significantly more important than marine fisheries (which are regarded more as a source of revenue/exports). When asked if this was not an over-simplification, DOF responded that “even a poor marine fisherman is rich compared to a poor rural (inland) fisherman”.

There is an admitted over-emphasis on reservoirs at the expense of attention to rivers and other areas. This is partly reinforced by the biases in the statistical system. Recently, more thought has been given to rivers but DOF appear uncertain as to their options for such fisheries. There are no significant management strategies for riverine fisheries other than on-going mitigation stocking. Main problems within the fishery are reported to be non-compliance with regulations and over-fishing. This is particularly so in reservoirs. More recently the government has been seriously promoting co-management approaches to improve governance of fisheries. In rivers, environmental degradation is clearly recognised as the major problem. There is a general feeling that in many areas the river and swamp fisheries are already decimated beyond recognition. This is unfortunately true for those areas. On a more positive note this points to the considerable scope for rehabilitation. But some areas still have important river and floodplain fisheries. Most of these are under immediate threat from further environmental impacts from other sectors (particularly dams). Although aware of the opportunities, DOF has yet to become fully involved and active in river fishery restoration and there is considerable scope for this in Thailand. The recent shift in policies towards being more directly pro-poor and pro-environment should in theory enable DOF to become more involved in this area.

Thailand uses its current inland fishery statistics for: (i) calculating GDP (a requirement from central government), (ii) monitoring the status of inland fisheries (production, production area and stocking activities etc.), and (iii) as a management tool, mainly for large water bodies (reservoirs), to calculate the impacts of stocking etc. The current statistics might meet some of these requirements for reservoirs (although there is obviously scope for improvement) but obviously not so for rivers/swamps. For current purposes, the DOF generally consider that they have the information needed for reservoirs, but that there is scope to improve the accuracy and coverage. However, there was a clear consensus at DOF that different, additional, information is urgently required when trying to develop and implement policies and management aimed at poverty alleviation, improving livelihoods and biodiversity/environment considerations. But there is considerable uncertainty about who is supposed to collect such information and particularly regarding what information to collect and how.

5.5.5. Conclusions and recommendations

Apart from technical constraints in the reporting system (as outlined above), a major problem with the Thai system is that it seriously biases perceptions of the inland fisheries sector towards reservoirs and aquaculture. It has been an almost deliberate policy to either disregard river/swamp fisheries, or to accept their demise, and compensate for loses through production from other sources. This policy is not unique to Thailand and not entirely without justification; aquaculture and reservoir fisheries have developed well. But in parallel to this, a statistical system has developed that is not only biased towards aquaculture and reservoirs, but towards reporting increases in production in those sectors in response to government management measures. This has likely had a cyclical impact - reinforcing further investments in those sectors, partly at the expense of river fisheries. In hindsight, it would have been nice to have statistics reporting the losses being incurred from river fisheries. But a more interesting question, and not entirely academic, is whether the statistical system itself has contributed to such loss by reinforcing pro-aquaculture/reservoir policies or is simply a result of those policies. We can only conclude that countries should at least be cautious when basing policies on incomplete statistical coverage and be especially vigilant where such statistics reinforce policies.

It is doubtful if the current national system yields information of adequate quality to assess stocking, especially considering its subjective nature. But Thailand can, and often does, obtain better information on stocking through alternative local means. This is usually through a more focussed research process where more specific and detailed information can be gathered. What is certain is that the current information is next to useless in terms of livelihoods, poverty, biodiversity or environment related considerations.

Naturally, in relation to its current inland fishery statistics, Thailand has the option of checking the information through verification processes (research) and making subsequent improvements in both accuracy and cover (see Part I for suggestions on how this can be cost-effectively achieved). This should be done where possible. But the current Thai system has certain advantages which should not be discounted. It is (presumably) relatively cost-effective. It is based upon a rather simple technical approach. The information collected is not too technical and can be collected relatively easily. These are valuable attributes for a statistical system. The Thai system should not be discarded as a model for obtaining basic information. Before significant changes, and more importantly new investments, to this system are made, the question of whether the system satisfies modern information requirements should be addressed. According to DOF, apparently it does.

Future directions in information improvement need to consider the changing emphasis in policies. The current statistical system on its own will be a considerable constraint to DOF (and Thailand more generally) becoming more directly involved in poverty reduction, livelihoods, biodiversity/environment and inland fisheries restoration etc. The information generated is simply not particularly relevant to these issues. No matter how much is invested in the current system (within reason), the mission doubts if it will ever produce the necessary information. Thailand has the option to make some cheap and effective improvements to its current system, but to largely leave it alone, and to make new investments in more appropriate approaches for information generation under a wider, modern framework (see Part I).

Some of the recommendations for cost-effective approaches to obtain better information, specifically an improved “overview”, for inland fisheries outside reservoirs are based upon utilising remote sensing GIS approaches (see Part I). It is noted that the Thai Department of Fisheries has a relatively well resourced and competent GIS support unit. There is considerable scope for using this facility to improve information for inland areas and using remote sensing for fisheries environment monitoring purposes. This particularly applies to areas where empirical survey data are weak. Remote sensing is also cost-effective, impartial and accurate for undertaking resource surveys (e.g. reservoir inventories and aquaculture installations). One opportunity is to improve co-ordination and utility of resources within DOF by training GIS specialists in inland fisheries applications and inland fisheries specialists in GIS applications so the two can work better together. The technology is particularly useful for natural resources management planning (e.g. undertaking impact assessments for major development schemes).

DOF should give some consideration to becoming more involved in the recreational fishery sector (although not at the expense of attention to other more pressing issues of livelihoods and biodiversity etc.). DOF consider that the sub-sector is, and will be, largely serviced by the private sector (but oddly this has not stopped them being involved with aquaculture for which the same can be said). Even so, there is still a need for a government overview. Involvement might be based on co-management approaches and the principle of costs being recouped from the sector (which is more feasible for sport fisheries than other sub-sectors; see Part I and further comments in this part of the report for Malaysia).

In short, Thai inland fisheries are changing rapidly. Therefore, information requirements are also changing rapidly. DOF have already identified most of the opportunities but are unsure how to meet the technical challenges. Hopefully, Part I of this report will assist with this.


6.1. Cambodia
6.2. Lao PDR
6.3. VietNam

The mission has direct involvement in relevant experiences with inland capture fishery statistics elsewhere in Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and VietNam) from two main sources: (i) in 1996 an inland fishery statistics project formulation mission was undertaken by the MRC (Sverdrup-Jensen, Coates and Visser, unpublished), and (ii) since 1993 fisheries research and development work has been undertaken by the MRC, much of which is relevant to the current subject matter including the now comprehensive knowledge of capture fisheries production and statistics in Cambodia and comprehensive and systematic sampling based surveys of river capture fisheries in Lao PDR, Thailand and VietNam.

6.1. Cambodia

6.1.1. Background
6.1.2. The statistical collection system
6.1.3. The information produced
6.1.4. Perceptions of inland fisheries and objectives of the statistics
6.1.5. Conclusions and recommendations

6.1.1. Background

Cambodia has impressive freshwater resources. It lies at the heart of the lower Mekong River floodplains and includes the upper section of the Mekong River delta. As part of this system, the Tonle Sap River joins the Mekong at Phnom Penh, draining vast areas of floodplains to the north-west. Chief amongst these is the area around the Great Lake, which undergoes extensive seasonal expansion partly through the reversing flow of the Tonle Sap River. The area of this lake alone extends from 2000-3000 km2 in the dry season to 10 000-12 000 km2 in the flood season. This floodplain adjoins that of the Mekong mainstream forming a large interconnected expanse of prime fish habitat, much of it tropical floodplain forest. The Great Lake and Tonle Sap floodplains account for some 60 percent of reported fisheries production. There are no large reservoirs but a modest number of smaller water bodies exist. Rice field fisheries are however important.

The fisheries of Cambodia are legendary. However, this is mainly because historical records exist, in particular formal and accessible publications made by the French in the 1930’s and 40’s. Hopefully, this important archive might encourage others to publish research properly also. Based upon official catch reports over the past 10 years the fishery is less impressive (until reports were revised in 1999); although historically, before the late 1970’s reports were much higher. This represents another anomaly of fishery statistics: where published scientific records exist, they are, quite rightly, favoured over official statistics, at least in some circles. The country is often quoted as having the largest inland fishery in Southeast Asia. This is not the case: it is certainly easily surpassed by at least Myanmar and challenged by both Indonesia and VietNam. But these countries have much larger populations. For its size, Cambodia has a very impressive river fishery indeed.

The modes of exploitation are typical for Southeast Asian river fisheries. Where opportunities exist, large commercial/industrial gears are used. Major ones include barrage fences and river bag-nets. These supplement huge cumulative catches taken by a multitude of other gears in what is a very diverse and vibrant fishery. Cambodia also has a well developed and extensive fishing “lot” system whereby most of the productive areas or fishing opportunities are leased out. This is generally achieved through bi-annual auctions. Major lots include bagnets along the Tonle Sap River (which target fish migrating from the Great Lake) and areas of prime floodplain which are fenced-off and usually fished with barrage-fence/traps and other gears within the lot. Some of these fences can be up to 60 km long. The management system closely resembles that for the “Inn” fishery in Myanmar where the system appears to be more intensive, but lease areas in Cambodia may, on average, be larger. The two systems have similar histories (being in place since at least the mid-1850’s). The system also occurs in Indonesia, possibly Malaysia and on small local scales in Thailand.

As expected, the fishery is highly seasonal. Scenes at fishing lots during peak periods are still reminiscent of the bye-gone days in many marine fisheries. At these periods, huge quantities of fish are preserved by drying and making fish sauce but especially fish paste. There is considerable participation in fish processing, marketing and transport. Large quantities of fish and fish products are exported to both VietNam and Thailand.

For descriptive, management and legislative purposes the fishery is divided into:

The fishing lot system in Cambodia has come under considerable criticism of late. First, the current system is regarded, in places, as being socially unjust because it excludes the rural poor from access to the fishery. In response to this the system is currently under review, apparently with considerable political backing. The objective is not necessarily to demolish a system which, in principle, has much to offer, but to address issues of equity, governance and management. Second, and more relevant to the current report, the fishing rights (auction) system is less than transparent and widely regarded as involving much corruption.

Freshwater aquaculture production is modest at about 13 500 MT in 1999. Freshwater aquaculture is developing, as expected, mainly in areas where there is less competition from capture fisheries.

The country is also interesting for the present purposes because its statistics, and the basis for them, are probably the best researched in Southeast Asia. A Danida funded project, based at the Department of Fisheries in Phnom Penh, has, amongst other things, for the past seven years been researching the actual fisheries production based upon catch-effort sampling and socio-economic surveys. This information, together with the historical records and a number of related recent initiatives, has made Cambodia, in terms of its national inland fisheries, probably the best researched country in Southeast Asia. One odd result of this is that its fisheries are often regarded as “unique”, and therefore not relevant elsewhere. But they are only “unique” because we know much more about them, not because they are necessarily different to those in comparable areas. Nevertheless, apart from being one of Southeast Asia’s major producers, the country provides very good and credible examples of what is actually happening in the more productive sub-sectors of inland captures fisheries and how this may or may not be reflected in statistics.

6.1.2. The statistical collection system

The freshwater capture fisheries data collection system was reviewed by Thor Sensereivorth et al. (1999). Recent statistics have been collected from the burden books (lease documents), fishing licenses and interviews with lot owners. The middle-scale fishery is estimated from license information and estimates or reports of catch-effort. These statistics are collected by the provincial fisheries offices before being sent to the Fisheries Department and are based partly upon the annual planned figures. Estimates are made for other sub-sectors.

The large-scale or industrial capture fishery is covered mainly by the means of an activity logbook, which the Lot owner updates with the daily production (catch). The production figures for each month are collected by “data” collectors either based at the provincial fishery unit or at the community level (which might include several villages combined). There are around 5-6 data collectors in every province. Total production is reported monthly, by the provincial fisheries staff, to the Department of Fisheries in Phnom Penh. Traditionally, this occurs after a provincial meeting to discuss and estimate the monthly production figures - a system which illustrates the high degree of estimation in the production figures. All but one province has provincial fisheries staff. Since there is no time to sort fish into species level at the Lot, no data on species are recorded. Instead, fish are graded by value into no more than three categories. The same provincial staff collect information for the total aquaculture production from cages, ponds and pens from households by means of a sampling census. It is, however, assumed that this system is far from ideal and at field level there are doubts as to how extensive the census actually is. Provinces submit a yearly report to summarise the data and make projections for following years. These, unsurprisingly, often form the basis of future actual production reports.

Production from the middle-scale fishery is estimated based upon license records and reported catches. In theory, monthly surveys are supposed to be undertaken. In practice estimates are often made by district fishery officers. It appears that the small-scale fishery has traditionally been assessed, if at all, using a “guesstimate” since, until recently, there was no data on the extent of the fishery.

The National Institute of Statistics (NIS) does not collect data on fisheries or fish consumption and is totally dependant on the DOF to supply relevant data. NIS does produce a Consumer Price Index, which includes a quite comprehensive price listing for fish and fish products at several markets over the country. This is very useful supplementary information. The NIS is officially responsible for the general statistical methodology for all the government departments officially has to approve any methodology applied. However, this is largely ignored by the line departments.

In 1994, the Project for Management of Freshwater Capture Fisheries of Cambodia (Danida/MRC) began a stratified random sampling approach to data collection based upon a frame survey of fishing gears. This recorded all species captured, catch by gear, by month, by season, by sector districts, price and total value landed, initially only for the large and middle scale fisheries. The first comprehensive survey of the small scale fishery was completed in 1995-6 (Ahmed et al. 1998). It should be noted, however, that this work continued in parallel to the recurrent statistics collection system, figures for which were not amended in response to this sampling until 1999.

6.1.3. The information produced

Reported production is shown in Fig. 2-21. The figures prior to 1999 are effectively meaningless. In 1999, the official reports were revised, under considerable pressure, partly as a result of catch sampling research that has been undertaken by the Danida/MRC fisheries project. This resulted in roughly an increase by the factor 3.3 on previous reports. But even the recent report (1999) is considered likely an under-estimate.

Fig. 2-21 Cambodia - total inland capture fisheries production

A partial review of the Cambodia statistics is presented in Thor Sensereivorth et al. (1999). A full review of the Cambodia statistics is beyond the scope of this report. This should be done elsewhere and would also be of great benefit to other countries interested in the subject. This review identified the cause of under-reporting was derived from four main sources:

Current estimates of the freshwater capture fisheries production in Cambodia are presented in Table 2.9. Uncertainty continues in a number of areas. First, whilst catches from the bagnets are relatively easy to verify through catch sampling, catches from lease fisheries are difficult to verify because it is often difficult for sampling officials to either gain proper access or, even if they do, to report independently. Even well intentioned officials can be harassed by powerful lot owners. Hence the uncertainty with production from lots. Given the lack of transparency in the lot fisheries, Baran et al. (2001), in consultation with most knowledgeable local commentators, applied an arbitrary (but considered conservative) value of three times to the officially reported catches from lots. In addition, most of the current information on catches, and the current official statistics, apply only to the main fishing areas located around the Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers and floodplains. Areas remote from this will have lower catches per caput but totals would still be significant. This factor contributes to uncertainties with the figures especially for the small-scale family fishery. The importance of rice field fisheries should be noted in Table 2.9. These fisheries were not included in previous official reports at all.

Table 2.9 Estimates of freshwater capture fisheries production in Cambodia (from Sensereivorth et al., 1999)


Annual catch (MT)

Large scale fisheries:

- Fishing lot

30 000 - 60 000

- Dais (Bagnets)

15 000 - 20 000

Middle scale fisheries

85 000 - 100 000

Family fisheries

115 000 - 140 000

Rice field fisheries

45 000 - 110 000


290 000 - 430 000

These figures are between 4 and 6 times the previously reported production in most of the 1990’s (Fig. 2-21). Oddly though, they are still higher than the revised figures for 1999. The discrepancy is presumably due to continued reluctance by the people compiling statistics to accept scientifically based sampling over traditional methods, and, despite the inaccuracy of the traditional system which is itself based upon estimates at best, to accept estimates for areas where no data are actually collected.

The Cambodian experiences are highly relevant to the current review in a number of other respects:

Another problem with the statistics in Cambodia is that they continue to be driven by the quest for gross production data. They are of limited use for management where livelihoods, poverty, food security and environment/biodiversity are becoming more important issues. The mission notes that although some useful information on these latter aspects is now emerging in Cambodia, it arises through research, not through the statistical system.

When assessing the recent significant re-estimation of the official Cambodian statistics (for 1999) it is important to keep in mind and separate the contributions of research and recurrent statistics collection systems.

Some other information of considerable relevance to fishery statistics regionally is available for Cambodia (most based upon research, not the statistics collection system). These are included here mainly for the benefit of other countries that might be reviewing their information systems, particularly for rivers.

Fig. 2-22 illustrates well the highly seasonal nature of river fisheries where gears are primarily catching fishes migrating from floodplain areas. Such gross variations in catches over the year should be typical for tropical rivers, particularly those with large floodplains. However, catches are also influenced by the extent of flooding in any particular year (Fig. 2-23). This is likely because (i) bigger floods produce more fish, and (ii) the gears are more effective in bigger floods (because stronger currents in river channels are found in big flood years). This phenomenon also likely affects catches for barrage gears.

Fig 2-22 Monthly variations in catches from bagnets (dais) in the Tonle Sap river (from Baran et al., 2000)

Fig. 2-23 The relationship between bagnet (dai) catches and river level height (flooding) in the Tonle Sap river (from Baran et al., 2001)

According to Ahmed et al. (1998): fish consumption in floodplain areas is on average of 76 kg/caput/year, compared to only 8 kg/caput/year for other animal products; only 1 percent of fishing households engaged in fishing lots or large-scale fishing, 6 percent engaged in middle-scale (licensed) fishing, whereas almost all households were involved in small-scale fishing; production per household ranged from an average of 647 kg for family fishing households to 3 319 kg for middle-scale fishing households; 78.6 percent of households are actively involved in fishing related activities.

Fisheries yield from Mekong floodplains in Cambodia has been estimated at between 225 and 375 kg/hectare/year (MRC, 2001). Production from un-stocked rice fields is: in the region of 100-125 kg/hectare/year (Gregory et al., 1996, Guttman, 1999), 38 kg/caput/year for rice farmers (APHEDA, 1997), 201 kg/household per year amongst farmers for a 5 month period (Numa Sham and Try Hong, 1998).

6.1.4. Perceptions of inland fisheries and objectives of the statistics

One thing is for certain, Cambodians know fully the importance of their inland fishery. And in that, the country, along with Myanmar, is unusual. But what is revealing, and of immense relevance in this review, is that this appears to have made little difference to their statistics (until recently). There exists this curious separation of perceptions and statistics, illustrated best in Cambodia.

According to Thor Sensereivorth et al. (1999):

“The role of statistics is very important and basic for the assessment and solving of problems relevant to the fisheries management. If we can manage fishery statistics properly and correctly, we can make proper plans for fisheries management based on (1) an assessment of the biological and economic effects of a change in fishery regulations or in hydrology, and (2) an early warning of a species in decline and (3) essential baseline data for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA’s)”.
It can only be said that this is an extremely optimistic assessment of the role of statistics as the term is currently understood, and that the existing official figures have not assisted these goals in any significant fashion, and recently revised figures are unlikely to help with most. Another problem inherent in such statements and objectives is widespread confusion regarding the nature of “statistics”. There is now a lot of information available in Cambodia that will indeed assist with some of these stated objectives, but it was produced by research, not regular (formal) statistics collection. As far as is known, there are no current or planned management initiatives based upon the current statistics (which is perhaps fortunate).

There has been a recent significant shift in emphasis with Cambodian freshwater capture fisheries. Whilst the fisheries retain significant commercial importance, there is increasing emphasis on social justice, poverty reduction, improved governance (co-management approaches) and biodiversity and the environment.

The main problems with the fishery are reported as largely due to over-exploitation and non-compliance with existing regulations (Ahmed et al., 1998). It appears that this is a common gripe amongst fishing communities, as there is little evidence of actual over-exploitation, except perhaps for a number of prominent, but never abundant, species (Coates, 2001). The more usual complaint of habitat loss and environmental degradation in rivers applies less immediately to Cambodia as the resources are still in reasonable shape. But Cambodia’s aquatic resources are extremely vulnerable to water management activities and pollution arising mainly, but not exclusively, from upstream. There are signs of growing environmental stress but it is not yet critical. Will the existing statistics enable these influences to be monitored?

6.1.5. Conclusions and recommendations

It is beyond the scope of this report to advise Cambodia on specific measures it should take to improve its statistics. Better informed advice is available locally, and some local initiatives are already underway. But despite recent improvements in knowledge of the fisheries, Cambodia is yet to offer examples of how actual recurrent statistical systems can be improved and sustained (other than demonstrating the levels of previous under-reporting). The experiences in Cambodia are, of course, highly relevant to statistics, and options for their improvement, in other countries.

To a large extent the statistical system in Cambodia, even if it functioned effectively, suffers from its historical origins whereby a priority has been to track trends in gross production. This it has clearly failed to do. Neither is there evidence that the recent improvement (increase) in the figures will help in this respect. The system also has a bias towards the more prominent gears and this is likely at least in part because of the revenue generating aspects of the sector (which does not mean that that consideration is unimportant).

Inland capture fishery statistics are clearly in a state of transition in Cambodia. In view of recent experiences with the statistics, and the now relatively advanced state of knowledge of the fisheries (in comparison to some countries), the time is certainly ripe for the on-going re-assessment of the whole statistics and information system. Part I of this review recommends that countries should first consider what information they actually need. Only then should they worry about how to get it. Fundamental to this issue in Cambodia, as elsewhere, is for the relevant authorities to recognise that the fishery sector and its objectives are changing, together with its information requirements.

It is peculiar, therefore, that despite the level of knowledge of Cambodian inland capture fisheries, and particularly the recent attention to improving statistics, that this report has to conclude that the country is in the same boat as everybody else in terms of what to do to improve things; although it is better armed than some with information once it has decided. Reference is therefore made to the summary recommendations presented in Part I.

6.2. Lao PDR

6.2.1. Background
6.2.2. The statistical collection system
6.2.3. The information produced
6.2.4. Perceptions of inland fisheries and objectives of the statistics
6.2.5. Conclusions and recommendations

6.2.1. Background

Lao PDR is the only landlocked country covered in this report. The country is amongst the poorest in Southeast Asia. It comprises some 202 000 km2 of the total Mekong catchment which accounts for about 97 percent of the total area of the country. It contributes some 35 percent of the average annual flow of the Mekong. Freshwater resources are dominated by rivers and the country includes some of the most pristine of all the Mekong tributaries. River fisheries dominate the sector. Floodplain/swamp fisheries occur in localised areas and are generally more common in the south of the country than in the north, although nowhere are they extensive. The country has one large reservoir, Nam Ngum, with modest production and a number of smaller reservoirs used for hydropower and mainly irrigation. Rice agriculture is widespread and is being intensified although pesticide use is currently less than elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

Lao PDR still has some impressive fisheries, mainly river-based. Population density is quite low and there is much potential for river capture fisheries to develop further. Aquaculture is poorly developed by Southeast Asian standards. This is likely partly due to the low level of marketing opportunities but also through competition from wild fisheries (including rice field fisheries). Information on trade is inaccurate but Lao PDR is likely a net exporter of fish. Considerable quantities of fish pass informally between Lao PDR and Thailand, especially in the south and along the Mekong River, which forms much of the 1800 km international border between the two countries.

6.2.2. The statistical collection system

The Fisheries Division was created only in 1995 as a distinct unit within the Department of Livestock and Fishery of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. No information on national capture fisheries production has ever been collected in a systematic and comprehensive fashion. Some information has been collected for the fishery in the Nam Ngum reservoir, where collection is relatively easy since the local fishers are only allowed to sell their catches to one middleman. Despite this, information on the small-scale fishery in this reservoir, where the catch is consumed directly and not marketed through the middleman, has been lacking.

Although not currently functioning properly for providing fisheries information, a basic structure for data collection seems to be in place and is currently used to collect statistics on livestock, agriculture and forestry. Data collection at village level is performed by means of the village headman, a “model farmer” or the relevant veterinarian worker. Usually at least one, but more often, all three of these are present in each village. Each is responsible for data reporting to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. These people submit completed questionnaires through the district and provincial authorities to the national line departments in Vientiane. However, it is reported that relationships between villagers and government officers are less than ideal and there is widespread under-reporting. The main problem appears to be the usual fear that statistics will be used for taxation purposes. The level of formal training in data collection and statistics, in general, is weak at both provincial and district level.

The National Statistics Centre (NSC) has been developing methodologies and standards leading to a uniform system of data collection. The NSC policy is to work with a decentralised structure where all line Ministries will be responsible for data collection in their own field.

6.2.3. The information produced

The official production figures, both for capture and culture fisheries, are based entirely on estimates. In some cases these are more accurately described as guesses. These may or may not include extrapolations using previous documented estimates and, needless to say, may not reflect actual production. Official estimates are derived from yields per unit area for reservoirs and rice/fish culture and a standard figure for river fisheries. The latter figure has not changed much over the years and originates from a study by the University of Michigan in 1973. Singh (1990) re-estimated total production and included more realistic estimates for reservoir fisheries. Again this was based on no sampling data from Lao PDR. This estimate has been used as the basis for recent statistics submitted to FAO.

The recent official figures for total production from inland capture fisheries are shown in Fig. 2-24. The reported increase in production since 1993, and variations between years, are assumed to be explained by re-estimates or perceived increased production from reservoirs. There is no sampling or statistical basis to the information reported in Fig. 2-24.

A household survey was performed by NSC in 1992 comprising 3000 households in 147 villages in 18 provinces. The survey included a limited number of questions relevant to fisheries. The summary information suggests that nationally about 66 percent of the households interviewed own at least 1 fishing net. The NSC has also developed a “Village Book” for the regular reporting of various data.

Fig. 2-24 Lao PDR - reported total production inland capture fisheries

There have been a number of localised studies of capture fisheries, notably in southern Lao PDR. e.g. In the area of Khone Falls, where there is a traditional fishery targeting migratory fishes (Viravong et al., 1994, Singhanouvong et al., 1996a, 1996b, Warren et al., 1998). This work includes some excellent and extremely valuable time-series data for catch-effort for this fishery but is of limited use for estimating production.

Recently, research and survey work has enabled a reasonable re-evaluation of the likely capture fisheries production. Sjørslev (2000) reported results of a sampling survey of fisheries in Luang Prabang province in the northern part of the country. This mountainous province is has high terrain gradients gradient and there are no significant lakes, reservoirs or swamps. There is an extensive network of rivers and streams, which is typical for such areas. A second major aquatic resource is rice-fields. Aquaculture is poorly developed. The area is regarded as one where capture fisheries production, on average, would be at the lower end of the range for the Mekong Basin. Even so, catches of individual fishers have a mean of 54 kg per year with a variance of 30 to 78 kg. Although not spectacular by capture fisheries standards the significance of the catches is considerable because participation in the fishery is very high (which is normal). In 63 percent of surveyed villages, more than 95 percent of households depend on capture fisheries, with an additional 22 percent of villages having between 75 and 25 percent of household dependents. Fishing was ranked as the third most important household activity after rice-farming and livestock. Only two villages (7 percent) had “professional” fishers, each with about 10 percent of households involved. Overall, 83 percent of households are involved in fishing, and 41 percent of household members, 20 percent of which are children. The average yearly per caput consumption of fish and other aquatic animals was estimated at 29kg with fresh products accounting for between 16 and 22 kg. Fishery products accounted for about 43 percent of total animal products consumed but about 55-59 percent based upon animal protein equivalent. Margins of error using various methods to estimate total catch (based upon catch-effort data) were high (+ 30 percent). Final estimates were reached with some degree of confidence by combining a number of approaches. The use of fish consumption data injected considerable confidence into the overall estimates both as a way of calculating total production and as a check against catch-effort data. The survey concluded that total production from capture fisheries was between 10 000 and 15 000 MT per annum (as much as half of which is processed locally after being caught). This wide range (error) in the estimates should be viewed in context. It is the indicative figure, not its absolute accuracy that is important: First, there is much natural variation in such fisheries and therefore trying to be super accurate in any one year is somewhat pointless. Second, and more importantly for the present purposes, official statistics for the province put capture production at a meagre 700 MT per annum (between 4.5 and 7 percent of the likely figure). Apart from the lack of actual data in the official figures, two main factors contribute to the under-reporting: First, it is understood that official reports cover only what is considered to be “proper” (“professional”) fishing. Second, they only include finfish landed at regular marketing sites (the survey showed that most fish is not formally marketed and between 20-30 percent of the total catch is not fish but composed of a variety of other taxa - crustaceans, molluscs, insects, amphibians etc. taken especially from rice-fields).

Where imports and exports are known (either nationally or locally) then fish consumption figures can be used to estimate fishery production and are a very credible check for local statistics. As already noted, Lao PDR is unlikely to be a significant net importer of fish, and has no marine fishery. Therefore, most fish consumed will be produced domestically. Lao PDR undertook an Expenditure and Consumption Survey in 1997/8 based upon a nationwide household survey. The inclusion of a limited number of simple questions in this survey, relating to expenditure and consumption of fish, enabled a very accurate indicative figure for fish production for the whole country to be calculated. However, it was important to include in this approach estimates of consumption for fish products (particularly fish sauce, fish paste and dried fish). The resulting estimate of national fish consumption (= production) for Lao PDR is in the region of 200 000 MT (Sjørslev 2000). The largest potential source of error (which could be either positive or negative) in the calculation arises from figures for processed fish (both consumption data and fresh-fish conversion factors). The survey data produced an estimate of consumption (production) of 100 000 MT per annum for fresh finfish alone. The estimate of 200 000 MT per annum is considered reasonable and equates to an average of about 36 kg per caput per annum which is realistic for a country in Southeast Asia with good water resources and a predominantly rural/agricultural population. The proportion of this arising from the various sub-sectors has yet to be calculated but aquaculture is known to represent only about 14 000 MT nationally in 1998, which was re-estimated at 30 000 MT for 1999 (7 to 15 percent of the total production). Production from rice-fields, however, is significant.

A conservative estimate of capture fishery production of about 150 000 MT per annum is 5 times the officially reported annual figure. Lao authorities are currently discussing how to incorporate more realistic revised estimates of capture fisheries production into their official figures. Why this is problematic is a lesson in reality regarding statistical systems. One difficulty, common to many countries, is that despite the official figures having no sampling or valid statistical basis the system of generating national fishery statistics is incompatible with more accurate data generated through other mechanisms. For example, there is no formal requirement to reconcile estimates in the national fishery statistics and those from the national expenditure and consumption survey. New figures also question the validity of old figures which can, understandably, be taken personally by those involved in their production (also a common problem).

The current official statistics in Lao PDR result in some interesting phenomena. For example, the objective of a recent major aquaculture initiative is to raise per caput fish consumption from 7 to 11 kg per annum (the former figure is based upon official production divided by population number). It is already (or more likely traditionally) likely in the region of 36 kg. That this enables the development target to be exceeded simply by re-estimating consumption is a minor point. What is more significant is that policies are being based upon the official national statistics, despite the general lack of confidence locally in them. But without better figures, what else can be done?

6.2.4. Perceptions of inland fisheries and objectives of the statistics

Lao PDR clearly recognises the value of its living aquatic resources sector (fisheries). This is exhibited, for example, by the recent establishment of a separate division for fisheries and a significant research institute (LARReC). These developments show that, despite funding and human resource constraints, the country is willing to invest in the sector. This is a welcome and encouraging start. But a significant question is on what basis are sector and sub-sector policies set. This brief review has suggested that whilst Lao PDR appreciates its capture fishery, it seriously under-estimates its true quantitative value and extent. Recent surveys have helped reinforce the recent emphasis but the official figures remain.

It was previously reported (Sverdrup-Jensen, Coates and Visser, unpublished) that the usage of the current data on fishery production is extremely limited in Lao PDR and appears to be divorced from fishery planning exercises, which are, in any case, in their infancy. Whilst there is an element of truth to this, the official figures do still have a major influence on national policies, especially so amongst those less familiar with the sector. In particular, the figures have a major influence on donor perceptions and therefore their investment strategies.

There is a widespread belief, as well as occasional reports, that in Lao PDR that total production from capture fisheries from rivers and swamps is undergoing drastic decline due to over-fishing and environmental degradation. Oddly, there is no substantiated information or data to support this belief. In fact, the official statistics show an increase over the past 10 years. Of course, the latter are relatively meaningless in this context. But the point is that officials, not surprisingly, do not base their opinions on official statistics and this therefore raises the question as to why are they collected in the first place?

These examples also illustrate that official statistics are used or ignored arbitrarily, depending upon whether or not they support a particular policy or perception.

6.2.5. Conclusions and recommendations

The complete separation of the historical and current fishery statistics from fishery planning should be further encouraged.

Clearly, a major and immediate task for Lao PDR is to re-assess its current official figures for capture fisheries based upon a review of historical and recent information and data for the fishery. Some suggested methods for doing this are included in Part I. Much information is locally available and certainly more than enough to produce very realistic estimates. In this process, information based upon data from credible surveys should take precedent over all other information. Once survey data are accepted (within the normal margin of error) extrapolations based upon resource and population distribution are difficult to challenge. This must be done by the appropriate Lao authorities, not externally. The current report serves only to illustrate the need to do this. In common with many countries, Lao PDR needs to consolidate a more flexible, interactive and inclusive approach to the generation of national fishery statistics. There are encouraging signs that this is happening. It appears to have already been achieved recently with the figures for aquaculture. Only when this is achieved also for capture fisheries should the information be allowed to influence planning.

What could be done in the future? Lao PDR can perhaps take comfort from the fact that its inland capture fishery statistics are no worse than in many countries, and at least it has not invested significant resources in compiling them. An infrastructure does exist with which to collect data and information. Used wisely this is a significant asset. One danger is that Lao PDR will attempt to use this by duplicating systems in other countries. There is no evidence that this will work, and better information is already on hand and can be used for estimating gross production, more accurately and without significant investment. The more optimistic scenario is that Lao PDR, because it has not already heavily invested in fishery statistics, is ideally placed to consider its options more rationally and impartially than most countries. Fundamental to this process is to clearly establish what information is needed and then to identify the best options for obtaining it. Some ways in which this can be done are discussed at greater length in Part I.

6.3. VietNam

6.3.1. Background
6.3.2. The statistical collection system
6.3.3. The information produced
6.3.4. Perceptions of inland fisheries and objectives of the statistics
6.3.5. Conclusions and recommendations

6.3.1. Background

VietNam is among the more densely populated countries in Southeast Asia. The highest densities occur in the south especially within the delta of the Mekong River which represents the country’s most important agricultural area. Economic development has accelerated in recent years. Almost all freshwater areas are still heavily exploited for fisheries. The major river fisheries are centred on the Red River and its delta in the north, now highly degraded, and more importantly the Mekong delta in the south. Remote sensing flooding imagery shows that up to 40 percent of the area of the delta in VietNam is still flooded seasonally, mainly in the upper section. This is essentially an extension of the highly productive Tonle Sap floodplain system of the lower Mekong in Cambodia. Coastal regions are now largely under flood “protection”. A considerable amount of fish migrates into VietNam from Cambodia (and quite possibly the reverse occurs also). The Mekong delta also has a large brackishwater/estuarine fishery in its lower reaches. VietNam also has very extensive rice cultivation and has recently challenged Thailand as the world’s top exporter. However, production is intensive with very high pesticide use and rice-fish production has no doubt suffered as a result. Aquaculture is very well developed with 407 000 MT reported national production in 1999.

6.3.2. The statistical collection system

Sverdrup-Jensen, Coates and Visser (unpublished report of a trip in 1996) found the fishery statistics collection system in VietNam to be very unclear. It has continued to prove difficult to establish exactly how statistics are collected. One reason for this is that there is a large degree of delegation of the statistical system to provinces and it can be challenging to establish exactly what is happening at that level. In provinces where a Department of Fisheries exists it is responsible for collection and processing of information on fisheries production at the district and village/community levels. This information is heavily biased towards aquaculture statistics. Out of a total of 53 provinces, 23 have a Department of Fisheries including all provinces in the Mekong delta. In general, most provinces now have fisheries extension offices but for inland areas these mainly service aquaculture. In other provinces, staff of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development will collect the information on fisheries via their staff employed at district level and report directly to the Ministry of Fisheries (MoF), Department of Planning and Investment, in Hanoi. Provinces are requested to report every 3 months and produce a yearly report on the total area and total production. Only a limited number of species are distinguished, in particular, shrimps/prawns, marine crabs, Gracilaria spp. and a number of commercial fin-fish (in particular snakeheads and Pangasiid catfishes), which have export potential. All other production (culture or capture) is lumped together and reported simply as “freshwater fish”. Since production figures are used as a basis for government revenue and tax it might be expected that this system results in a certain bias in reporting.

The Ministry of Fisheries has no budget to collect their own data and rely entirely on the data supplied by provincial offices. An independent (parallel) system is in place through the General Statistics Office (GSO). This office has, since 1994, mobilised people at community level to ascertain, amongst other things, the total production area and the average production per production method by means of a sample. Again the bias is towards aquaculture. There seems to be some communication at different levels between the two systems, although it is admitted that this co-operation is far from optimal.

There is a licensing system in place for fishing in the larger reservoirs. Licensing systems also occur in open water (river/floodplain) fisheries and these target the larger professional gears. Compliance is not high and relationships between fishers and district officials in general leave room for improvement. The government is promoting improved co-management approaches to try to improve governance and management of the fisheries.

A complicating factor is that four different departments (excluding the Ministry of Fisheries) are responsible for the management of the different inland water bodies. Whilst all might lay claim to revenue from the fishing, few of them systematically collect data on the number of fishers involved or the capture fisheries production on a national basis. The government Ministries or Departments went through a major re-organisation and reform in the mid-1990’s and this, together with the still ongoing shift to market oriented economy, does not clarify matters in terms of responsibilities and competence of different offices for collecting data. A detailed investigation of the actual data gathering systems on a provincial, district and village level is necessary to obtain a clear picture of the usefulness and potential of any specific statistics. This can be time consuming and requires significant local knowledge.

A major overhaul of the fishery sector was proposed by the Fisheries Sector Master Plan project (Danida in 1996). The marine fishery remained the main target for changes in the way data are collected. Again the emphasis has been on the export sub-sectors and aquaculture. There is currently an on-going Danida funded project to improve fisheries information systems. This has not fully addressed the needs for inland capture fisheries but is attempting to incorporate some aspects through liaison with the Danida funded MRC Fisheries Programme.

Collecting data on the small scale fishing activities, in general, is not currently considered feasible. Inland capture fisheries are considered only to constitute a minor fraction of the total fishery and aquaculture sector. The government takes the view that the main thrust for growth from inland areas will be from aquaculture. There is a perception, not universally held, that there is probably little point improving the statistics for inland capture fisheries. Needless to say, in the absence of hard data on the inland capture fishery, this attitude is somewhat irrational. In the few areas where improved statistics have been collected it has also been shown to be incorrect (see below). Nevertheless, emphasis by the government on generating export revenue has placed inland capture fishery statistics as a low priority.

Where statistics do exist for inland capture fisheries, based upon information collection, they appear to be founded mainly upon estimates from records of licensed gears. These may or may not include an element of catch reporting by fishers. Some districts may undertake surveys of reports from fishers. Better statistics might be available on a local basis for individual reservoirs, but the mission has been unable to find any that are relevant to obtaining estimates of reservoir fisheries on a national basis.

6.3.3. The information produced

Inland capture fisheries production reported to FAO, together with freshwater aquaculture for comparison, is shown in Fig. 2-25. Based upon this information, the relative degree of attention to, and investment in, aquaculture would appear justified. It is certainly the case that the aquaculture sector has performed well and the figures suggest it outstrips capture by a significant margin. But the reality regarding inland capture fisheries is quite different. For example, official reports of production from freshwater capture fisheries by a single province in the Mekong Delta (An Giang - see later) have averaged around 65 000 MT per year. It is hard to believe the province accounts for 86 percent of total national capture production from freshwaters; especially considering it is only one of at least 12 other provinces in the delta (subject to definitions on boundaries). An Giang province, being located near Cambodia, still with extensive seasonal flooding, is noted for its inland capture fisheries but a number of other provinces have similar freshwater resources, not least Dong Thap province which is adjacent in the north-east section of the delta (also bordering Cambodia), plus large sections of several others. Even those areas where the annual flooding is now largely eliminated are not expected to have totally insignificant capture fisheries, not least because all still have extensive networks of canals and many still have fisheries on the Mekong distributaries. Also, those closer to the sea begin to have brackishwater/estuarine fisheries (inland).

Fig. 2-25 VietNam - Inland capture fisheries and aquaculture production (national totals)

The first problem in VietNam with the national inland capture fishery statistics (at least as reported to FAO) is that they do not include all available provincial information; or, more likely, the information is not reported to national authorities (unless An Giang is the only province with reports).

Following this information, the apparent 25 percent reported decline in inland capture production over the past ten years (Fig. 2-25) would seem to be baseless. Certainly the figures are incorrect in absolute terms but is the trend representative? Has there been a decline in the fishery or decline in reporting? Do the figures represent a degree of subjectivity due to perceptions of what is believed to be happening? Is there actual misreporting (at provincial/district level) to justify management activities in other sub-sectors? For present purposes, these questions are less relevant than the fact the information produced, when viewed in any impartial fashion, does not enable them to be answered. So what then is the purpose of this information?

In addition to these discrepancies in compiling national statistics, at least as forwarded to FAO, recent statistically based sampling surveys of inland capture fisheries have shown that, as usual, the existing reporting/statistical system still grossly under-estimates the fishery. In 1998-9 the MRC commissioned a survey in An Giang province which was undertaken by a local university and provincial and district fisheries officers with technical assistance through the Research Institute for Aquaculture Number 2 (Ho Chi Minh City). A team report was produced (Sjørslev, 2001) and the information produced on freshwater capture fisheries in the area was as follows:

Naturally, when these figures were first produced they were received with some scepticism locally. Fortunately the figures could be verified by making comparisons with other regions. The figures were, for example, remarkably similar to those obtained by a number of independent studies for the same adjoining ecosystem in Cambodia (see Cambodia this document). Catches per household were comparable as were catches per gear, consumption figures and the levels of participation in the fishery. This is not surprising as it is effectively the same fishery. What gives the relatively high production estimate is the relatively high population living in the province (over 2 million people). Estimates of catches per unit area have still to be made (this is complicated because large quantities are caught from rivers and canals where fish may be migrating through the area).

The official provincial report for the capture fisheries in An Giang province for 1999 was 64 000 MT. The estimate from the actual survey was therefore about 4.25 times higher (which is comparable to the error for other similar fishery statistics documented elsewhere in this report). However, the provincial figures are based upon catch reports and estimates for the larger gears (mainly bag-nets, barrages, trawls, big lift nets and stationary gillnets). Interestingly, by applying the same statistical methods as the province, but using the data from the aforementioned actual survey for the same gears and effort, an estimate of 66 679 MT was derived - a difference of only 4 percent. This endorses the survey data. It also shows that the provincial statistics are, in fact, reasonably accurate or at least representative. The problem with the provincial statistics is that they apply only to a small sub-sector of the total fishery.

The aforementioned survey and statistics refer to a single province. The same correction (factor 4.25) cannot be applied to the national figures because we know they do not include all provincial reports. Also, not all provinces may have statistics of the same nature as in An Giang (meaning they most likely under-report even more). What then is a realistic total estimate of freshwater capture fisheries production in VietNam?

A cursory look at the Mekong delta in VietNam suggests, based upon data for An Giang, that the upper half, which includes the major seasonally flooded sections, when allowances are made for resource areas and population numbers, might be producing in the order of 400 000 to 500 000 MT. Based upon production per caput, this is conservative and less than production per caput in Cambodia. Added to this should be a smaller amount for the middle to lower sections of the delta (with limited flooding) but an unknown but likely substantial amount for the inland areas of the estuary/coastal region. A figure of 500 000 to 600 000 MT per annum for the Mekong delta in VietNam is therefore not unreasonable and compares reasonably with the estimates for the Ayeyarwaddy (Irrawaddy) delta in Myanmar, which has some similar characteristics. An average of a conservative production of 35 kg/caput/year (it is nearly twice that in the upper section) gives a figure of 600 000 MT. Whilst such production might be considered high for the Mekong delta, it should be related to resource area and population size. There are 17 million people living in the VietNamese part of the Mekong delta; this is 1.5 times the total population of Cambodia (including those not living in fishery resource rich areas). Taking a rough figure of 10 percent of the population involved in fishing (very conservative based upon the An Giang data) gives an estimate of around 1.7 million VietNamese fishers in the delta alone (and it is arguably likely twice that). Added to this should be those also involved in fish processing, marketing and transportation. Whilst all of these people may not be involved full-time, they all depend significantly upon capture fisheries. More importantly, so do the other members of their households (multiplying the total dependency by a factor of about 4.0). The entire population also depends upon fish for food security. Added to this estimate for the Mekong total will be production from areas outside the Mekong basin and from reservoirs. This might be speculated to be at least another 100 000 to 200 000 MT per annum.

Calculations in this fashion are unlikely to yield either accurate or accepted estimates. But the analysis shows at least three important things: (i) that the current reported production of 75 000 MT from inland capture fisheries nationally is a gross under-estimate, (ii) any reasonable impartial estimate based upon available data (locally or by comparison with relevant regions elsewhere) would conclude that inland capture fisheries production likely exceeds that from freshwater aquaculture, and (iii) whatever the realistic figure is, it is sufficiently high enough to justify investing some effort into obtaining a more accurate estimate in a more systematic fashion.

6.3.4. Perceptions of inland fisheries and objectives of the statistics

VietNam is certainly a country which generally seriously under-estimates the importance of its inland capture fishery, particularly so for the Mekong delta. It is hard to say whether this has been due to the fishery statistics or whether the statistics themselves have been influenced by pre-determined policies. In general, there is also the widespread view that the fishery is in decline (primarily through environmental pressures) and that, in any case, there is limited scope to improve it.

The use of the current statistics seems to be limited for reporting purposes to the Ministry level and is purely descriptive. There appear to be no national freshwater capture fishery management actions or plans based on the currently available data (at least for river fisheries). Neither could any be realistically undertaken. It is more likely that the current statistics have encouraged a lack of interest in the sub-sector. There are some local initiatives, with related statistics etc., for reservoirs. These relate mainly to assessing the impacts of stocking programmes.

6.3.5. Conclusions and recommendations

Obviously, VietNam needs to re-assess its inland capture fishery statistics. A more representative picture of the sub-sector can be obtained with limited cost, using existing information. This might include exploring in more detail the information available at provincial and district levels and especially establishing the basis of that information. Doing this does not necessarily require substantial investments in the statistical system itself. Further recommendations as to optional approaches for other ways of improving information in areas where statistics are currently weak are provided in Part I.

Regarding improving the current statistical collection system, there are two separate problems: (i) the way in which national figures are compiled (or reported to the national level), and (ii) the relevance of the original statistics. A statistical system including staff is currently in place. There are certainly low cost solutions to improving the current information, where it is already being collected. The example from An Giang suggests that at least for some areas valid corrections can be applied to current statistics, without extra costs. It is not unreasonable to suggest that such changes might indeed result in overall savings. In addition, the replicate collection system by GSO and the MoF could be merged to rationalise the investment of effort (if this has not already been done). There is no technical reason why local authorities, given limited support and advice, could not make many improvements on their own. The problem is very much one of motivation to pay attention to these fisheries. To address that problem, policy changes at national level would help.

This does not mean that VietNam need necessarily invest substantially more in its current inland fishery statistical system. On the contrary, this review concludes that such investments should proceed with caution. A better approach is to first ascertain what kinds of information are required for policy, planning and management purposes. The existing system, provided improvements are made where feasible, even if scaled-down, may provide the current information more effectively and cheaply, and certainly more reliably. It is the additional information that may be required, but is not currently collected, that is important. Investing in the current system may not necessarily provide that. In particular, the current system is unlikely to provide information relevant to monitoring trends in the fishery, livelihoods, poverty and food security aspects or biodiversity and the environment. Further details are included in Part I.

It is, of course, for VietNam to set its own policies and priorities. All this review can contribute is to illustrate the dangers of basing policies on poor statistics. The downgrading of inland capture fisheries has been fuelled at least in part by the statistics themselves. This has spiralled into further downgrading of the fisheries. A national policy of promoting commercial aquaculture and export-oriented fisheries is not necessarily inappropriate in itself, and is not being questioned here. Indeed, exports and aquaculture have responded admirably. The danger lies in when the policy results in insufficient attention to an inland capture fishery of the extent and importance of that in VietNam.

The evidence suggests that the inland capture fisheries in VietNam, particularly in the lower Mekong River, are worth sustaining. But VietNam, in common with many countries, is certainly making an error of judgement by assuming that its inland capture fisheries cannot be improved. Evidence from Myanmar in this report, and experiences elsewhere, conclusively show the substantial benefits that can accrue by applying cost-effective enhancement techniques to such fisheries (through better management of the environment and/or stocking). There is much scope for such techniques to be applied to river fisheries in VietNam, particularly since most of the environments are already under substantial management. In common with most countries in the lower Mekong basin, VietNam has yet to adopt closer co-ordination of water and fisheries management activities to optimise resource utilisation for which will require improved statistics and information.

[3] (CSO), 1999). The figure is difficult to calculate as conversion factors are not known. The author used an average factor of 3.0 to convert from processed to fresh fish, which may be conservative. This gives average per caput consumption of 40 kg (the survey was for 1997 but it is assumed consumption patterns have not changed). This is a low figure for such an area based on data for the Mekong, although meat consumption is higher.
[4] 1 rai = square metres, 1 ha = 6.25 rai

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