> Management guidelines for Asian floodplain river fisheries.
FAO Fisheries Report No. 00


Management guidelines for Asian floodplain river fisheries

Part 1: A spatial, hierarchical and integrated strategy for adaptive co-management

Daniel D. Hoggarth
Vicki J.Cowan
Ashley S. Halls
Mark Aeron-Thomas

MRAG Ltd, London, UK
J. Allistair McGregor
Centre for Development Studies, University of Bath, UK
Caroline A. Garaway
Renewable Resource Assessment Group, Imperial College,
London, UK
A. Ian Payne
MRAG Ltd, London, UK
Robin L. Welcomme
Renewable Resource Assessment Group, Imperial College,
London, UK




Rome, 1996

Table of Contents

The designations employed and the presentation of the material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

This document includes outputs from several research projects funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom for the benefit of developing countries. The views expressed are not necessarily those of DFID.

The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

ISBN 92-5-104261-6

Reproduction of this publication for educational or other non-commercial purposes is authorized without any prior written permission from the copyright holders provided the source is fully acknowledged. Reproduction of this publication for resale or other commercial purposes is prohibited without written permission of the copyright holders. Applications for such permission, with a statement of the purpose and extent of the reproduction, should be addressed to the Director, Information Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy.

Preparation of this document

These guidelines summarise a series of studies, funded by the UK Department For International Development (DFID, previously known as ODA) on the management of Asian floodplain river fisheries. Between 1992 and 1997, DFID has funded four separate projects in this area. The research was initiated by a project led by Bath University's Centre for Development Studies (CDS), entitled ‘Poverty, Equity and Sustainability in the Management of Inland Capture Fisheries in South and South-East Asia’. The theme was then taken up by three projects, led by MRAG Ltd, and funded by DFID's Fisheries Management Science Programme (FMSP): ‘River and Floodplain Fisheries in the Ganges’; ‘Fisheries Dynamics of Modified Floodplains in Southern Asia’; and ‘An Evaluation of Floodplain Stock Enhancement’.

The Technical Paper is written in two parts. Part 1 outlines a practical strategy for the management of large floodplain rivers based on the experiences gained by these projects and on other literature from related research. Part 2 includes the more technical data derived from the research projects, on which the guidelines in Part 1 are based. The Part 1 guidelines are presented in a simple and user-friendly style to provide both policy makers and field officers with the tools they need to manage river fisheries, and the technical and institutional background to help make them work. The guidelines may also be used in the construction of courses for regional fisheries officers and related extension workers.

Funding for the preparation of this paper was provided by the UK Department For International Development. The Technical Paper was published through FAO to ensure the widest possible dissemination of its ideas. Over the years, the research theme has benefited from the active participation of a wide range of local collaborators, including staff from: the Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU), Mymensingh, Bangladesh; the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS), Dhaka, Bangladesh; the Bangladesh Institute for Development Studies (BIDS), Dhaka, Bangladesh; the Central Research Institute for Fisheries (CRIFI), Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia; the Environmental Laboratory of the University of Patna, India; the Coastal Resources Institute (CORIN) of the Prince of Songkla University, Hat Yai, Thailand; the Zoology Department of the University of Allahabad, India; the Zoology Department of the University of Garhwal, India. The many contributions of these collaborators to the ideas in this paper are warmly acknowledged. Special thanks are due to CRIFI's Dr Fuad Cholik, Dr Fatuchri Sukadi, Novenny Wahyudi, Dr Achmad Sarnita, Ondara, Agus Djoko Utomo and Zahri Nasution; to BAU's Dr M.A. Wahab; to MRAG's Prof. John Beddington and Kanailal Debnath; to CDS's Alex Kremer, Claire Hall, Dr Adrian Winnett and Prof. Chris Heady; to CORIN's Dr Somsak Boromthanarat and Dr Awae Masae; to the University of Patna's Dr R. Sinha; to BCAS's Dr Saleemul Huq; to Proshika's Rashed un Nabi; to DFID's Dr John Tarbit, Neil McPherson and Chris Price; and to FAO's Dr Jim Kapetsky.

MRAG Ltd is a leading international consulting firm, specializing in aquatic resources management, development, research and assessment, and information technology. The group has extensive experience of working in marine, freshwater, riverine and floodplain environments, and has worked in more than 60 countries for governments, private sector companies and international agencies. MRAG was formed in 1984, currently has a core staff of more than 20 professionals from a range of disciplines, and is located in the Imperial College campus, in the University of London. The group is associated with, and covenants funds to, the Marine Education and Conservation Trust, a charity which supports research and education.

Contact address:
47 Prince's Gate
London SW7 2QA

Hoggarth, D.D.; Cowan, V.J.; Halls, A.S.; Aeron-Thomas, M.; McGregor, J.A.; Garaway, C.A.; Payne, A.I.; Welcomme, R.L.
Management guidelines for Asian floodplain river fisheries. Part 1. A spatial, hierarchical and integrated strategy for adaptive co-management.
FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 384/1. Rome, FAO. 1999. 63p.
This technical paper provides guidelines for an integrated management strategy for floodplain river fisheries. The paper is written in two separate volumes. Part 1 presents the guidelines in a ‘user-friendly’ format, to promote their uptake by fishery managers, policy makers and field officers. Recommendations are given both on the alternative technical tools which may be used to manage river fisheries, and on the institutional factors required for their success. The highly variable ecological and social characteristics of floodplain rivers demand locally-appropriate and adaptive solutions, rather than a single ‘blueprint’ approach. The recommended management strategy allocates responsibilities both hierarchically and spatially, and promotes the effective collaboration of government, communities and other stakeholders at appropriate levels.
The more technical Part 2 describes the underlying research work which provided much of the basis for these management guidelines. Investigations were made during four projects funded by the UK Department For International Development (DFID), in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal and Thailand, between 1992 and 1997. Part 2 describes the floodplain river environments, the fish stocks and the fishing practices found at some of these study sites. Justification is given for a range of technical management tools for river fisheries, including the use of access controls and reserves, and the manipulation of water levels within flood control and irrigation schemes to give benefits to fishing as well as agriculture. Final chapters in Part 2 describe lessons learnt on the management of enhancement fisheries (e.g. based on fish stocking), and on the prospects and limitations of participatory management for these resources.


Inland fisheries: warm and cold waters
Directors of Fisheries
Fishery Regional Officers
Fisheries Department

Table of contents



Part 1 Management Guidelines

1   Why Manage?

1.1   Why manage floodplain rivers?

1.2   Management objectives

2   What to Manage?

2.1   What makes floodplain river fisheries special?

2.2   Environment

2.2.1   River floodplains and the wider catchment

2.2.2   High spatial and seasonal variability

2.2.3   Floodplain modification

2.3   Fish

2.3.1   Types of floodplain river fish

2.3.2   Impact of fishing

2.3.3   Impact of other sectors

2.4   Fishing

2.4.1   Local control of waterbodies

2.4.2   Floodplain river fishers and access to fishing

2.4.3   Floodplain river fishing gears

3   Who should Manage?

3.1   Introduction - sharing roles and responsibilities

3.1.1   Hierarchical sharing: co-management

3.1.2   Spatial sharing: fishery management units

3.2   Who has an interest in management?

3.3   What types of activities are needed for floodplain fishery management?

3.4   What stakeholder capacity is needed for management?

3.4.1   Resources - people and money

3.4.2   Suitably trained people

3.4.3   Rights - recognised roles, responsibilities and the right to manage

3.4.4   Motivation

3.5   Matching stakeholders to roles in fisheries management

3.5.1   Government departments

3.5.2   Floodplain communities

3.5.3   Intermediary organisations

3.5.4   Illustration of who might do what

4   How to manage?

4.1   Floodplain fishery management units

4.1.1   Identifying Village Management Areas (VMAs)

4.1.2   Identifying Catchment Management Areas(CMAs)

4.1.3   Identifying Intermediate Management Areas(IMAs)

4.2   Strategic assessment of the management units

4.2.1   Information requirements

4.2.2   Predicted impact of management tools on the recovery of fish stocks

4.2.3   Predicted impact of management tools on the catches of different fishing gears and their owners

4.3   Fishery unit management plans - selecting from a menu of technical tools

4.3.1   Tools for Village (Blackfish) Management Areas (VMAs)

4.3.2   Tools for Catchment (Whitefish) Management Areas (CMAs)

4.3.3   Tools for Intermediate Management Areas (IMAs)

4.4   Adaptive management - monitoring for a reason

4.4.1   Why monitor and adapt?

4.4.2   Who should monitor?

4.4.3   What to monitor?

4.4.4   Monitoring fishery benefits

4.4.5   Monitoring inputs to the fishery

4.4.6   Monitoring the change in management approach

4.4.7   Paying for monitoring programmes

5   Steps to Successful Management

5.1   National level (leadership, endorsement and legitimisation)

5.2   Catchment level (regional leadership and co-ordination)

5.3   Management unit level (management of fishery resources)

List of Figures

Figure 2.1   Alternative migration patterns of riverine ‘whitefish’ and ‘blackfish’

Figure 2.2   Simple relationships between fishing, catches and profit for a multi-species river fishery

Figure 2.3   Types of floodplain river fishing gears

Figure 2.4   The relationships between the seasonal cycles of fishing, fish biology and flooding

Figure 3.1   Co-management as a range of partnership arrangements between central government and local communities

Figure 3.2   Management roles required for effective management of floodplain fisheries

Figure 4.1   River fishery management units

Figure 4.2   Hypothetical illustration of the effects of three management tools on the catches of two species, taken by two interacting fishing gears.

Figure 4.3   Diagram representing the possibilities for improved learning, between and within stakeholder groups, when adopting an adaptive approach to fisheries management

Figure 5.1   Management activities required for effective co-management of fishery units (dotted lines indicate inputs by different organisations; solid arrows indicate the contribution of the information between different activities; the shaded area indicates the main components of the ongoing adaptive management process)

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