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4. Final considerations

Fish stocks and fisheries in mountain rivers, lakes and reservoirs are dependent on good quality water, unimpeded migratory routes for migratory fish species, and sustainable fishing pressure. Development of fisheries in rivers, lakes and reservoirs in mountain countries does not depend only on healthy and abundant fish stocks, but also on the social and economic conditions. Mountain fisheries are frequently based on fishing activities by subsistence or artisanal fisherfolk, who combine fishing activities with farming to make a living. Where full-time fishers cannot make a living from fishing, the fishery is abandoned, and fishers may migrate to towns to seek other opportunities of employment. Such is the situation for example in Nepal. Poor income from fisheries also slows down the development of fisheries, such as is the case with aquaculture in Ethiopia. Overfishing of rivers and lakes is common where there is open entry in fisheries and no control on effort. Where a fishery law and regulations exist, their enforcement may be poor or non-existent.

Mountain waters also suffer from the deterioration of the catchment environment. Deforestation and poor agricultural practises lead to soil erosion and an increase in water turbidity, with spawning beds of valuable cold water fish species such as Tor sp., Schizothorax sp. and trout silted over. Not only are the natural habitats damaged or destroyed, but hatcheries constructed along streams may be damaged and made inoperative by the increased flow rates from deforested catchments, and the associated increase in transport of sediments, including stones and boulders, in fast running streams. Pollution from settlements, factories and mines further aggravates the situation, as well as water diversion for irrigation, or damming. Fishery managers have to cope with an ever increasing number of impacts arising from human activities outside fisheries.

Fisherfolk in mountain areas often belong to the poorest and marginalized social groups. Some governments provide assistance to fishers including low credit. But the lower the Gross National Product of a country, the lower the assistance by the Government. The shortage of government support may or may not be supplemented by external assistance. FAO, NGOs and other similar agencies and countries providing bilateral assistance have supported cold and warm water fisheries development in a number of mountain countries in Asia, Latin America, Africa and in Papua New Guinea.

Fishery managers have been involved in enhancing capture fisheries in rivers, lakes and reservoirs, with the major strategy being maintenance of valuable fish stocks at fishable levels through regular stocking of fish seed grown in hatcheries, often stocking exotic fish species. Introductions of suitable cold water species in open waters has been applied in mountain countries of Latin America, Africa, Asia and Papua New Guinea and lake fish production, apart from the regular stocking of open waters, has been enhanced by cage culture, as for example in Lake Titicaca and the lakes in Phewa Valley, Nepal.

Aquaculture in mountain countries has been developed at different levels. In Ethiopia aquaculture is still struggling through the economic constraints due to the high price of the product, while trout culture in other countries such as in Latin America, with ready markets, especially the tourist industry, and with proximity to major cities, has been developing successfully. With rising living standard, cold and warm water aquaculture fish production, based on intensive feeding of quality feeds, is expected to develop further. Temperate and warm water fisheries based predominantly on mass production of cyprinids (carps) with omnivorous or phytoplankton and macrophyte diets will always produce more fish more cheaply than cold water capture fisheries and aquaculture. There is still much opportunity for the development of fisheries in poor mountain countries with warm water resources, but the recent success of developing aquaculture in mountain provinces of Viet Nam shows that fish farmers in the rural areas can become the direct beneficiaries of the implementation of inexpensive aquaculture technologies, and as a consequence achieve significant improvement in their standard of living.

As fisheries play an important role in providing food and income to people in mountain areas, they must be integrated into the rural development and water resource development initiatives. Governments in some countries have already done so, but in a number of countries much still needs to be done. Among the issues which need to be addressed are the following:

Several problem areas are common and resources have to be shared among neighbouring countries in mountain regions with transboundary issues. Collaborative action on a regional scale would probably be the most cost-effective way to address common problems and share experiences. A network for development and conservation of mountain river, lake and reservoir fisheries should be established among concerned nations in the different mountain regions.

This can be achieved through action programmes for mountain countries, addressing the following:

The following is a selection of topics for possible project activities:


FAO. 1995. Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Rome, FAO. 1995. 41p.

FAO. 1997. FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries: Inland fisheries. No. 6, Rome.

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