1. Profile
    1. Basic legislation
    2. Legal definition
    3. Guidelines and codes of conduct
    4. International arrangements
  2. Planning
    1. Authorization system
    2. Access to land and water
    3. EIA
  3. Operation
    1. Water and wastewater
    2. Fish movement
    3. Disease control
    4. Drugs
    5. Feed
  4. Food safety
    1. Miscellaneous
      1. References
        1. Legislation
        2. Related resources
      2. Related links
        Basic legislation
        Department of Livestock and Fisheries (DLF) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) is the competent authority for fisheries and aquaculture management at national level in Lao PDR. The agency is responsible for the protection, promotion, and sustainable production as well as use and management of aquatic resources. It carries out regulatory and enforcement functions, proposes and implements policies and strategies, provides extension services, as well as collects and disseminates information related to livestock and fisheries in the country.

        In 2015, Lao PDR adopted the Agriculture Development Strategy 2025 and Vision to the year 2030. Lao PDR defined the long-term vision as producing competitive commodities; ensuring food security; gradual modernization towards clean, safe, resilient and sustainable agriculture economy; linking rural development to contribute to the national economy.

        By 2025, the agriculture sectors in Lao PDR targets to produce fish and aquatic animals in the volumn of 274 000 tonnes per year, 75 percent of which should be from production of fish farming system. The country will focus on developing and disseminating good aquaculture technology as well as promote all types of fish raising systems, including integration with livestock farming, and fish raising in paddy fields, in reservoirs, in natural rivers and in fish ponds. This is to ensure a production growth rate of about 10 percent per year. In addition, Lao PDR will expand and enhance the capacity of its exiting 62 fish breeding stations in supplying fingerling and improving breeds including exploring commercial potential of more Mekong river fish.

        Lao PDR enacted its first comprehensive Fisheries Law in 2009. Even though the country is still yet to promulgate subordinate legislation to fully implement the law, some implementing regulations can be found at the village/reservoir level.

        The Fisheries Law vests Department of Livestock and Fisheries (DLF) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) with the responsibilities: to formulate national strategy, policies and legal framework for fisheries which also include aquaculture; to raise public awareness, provide training and coordinate with all sectors and local authorities for conservation, protection, development and the use of aquatic fauna; to consider commercial fisheries operations in terms of managing aquatic fauna verities that may require protection; to create and maintain information systems and records of licenses for commercial fishery operations; and to liaise and cooperate with regional and international organizations on matters relating to fisheries. The Fisheries Law is further implemented by decentralized branches of the central authorities, generally Livestock and Fisheries Unit of provincial/capital and municipal/district Agriculture and Forestry Office.

        In addition, Fisheries Management Committees (FMCs) are established to regulate certain bodies of water. The law mandates that FMC shall include the participation of fishermen, and instructs each FMC to prepare and adopt plans for the management and development of fisheries within their own water resource areas (conservation zones, protected areas, fish spawning grounds, areas for the expansion of fish species, fish release areas etc.). These plans can include allocation of fishing rights, guidance on the use of fishing gear and methods, restrictions on catching and spawning seasons, and other potential prohibitions. FMCs may establish registration requirement, licensing system, or zoning, as well as use other management tools and mechanisms. A good example is the FMC for Nam Theun 2 reservoir that was created after the construction of Nam Thuen 2 dam in 2010. Nam Theun 2 FMC has adopted Fisheries Co-Management Plan in collaboration with the village fisher groups and the reservoir fisheries association. Furthermore, FMCs are charged with collection of statistics on fishing activities and communicate them to DLF on an annual basis.
        Legal definition
        Article 24 of the Fisheries Law defines ‘development of aquaculture’ as “the improvement of aquacultural models through following modern models and by the provision of varieties and sufficient food for fish and other aquatic fauna, the use of aquacultural techniques and methods appropriate for each species and that are appropriate in terms of the potential and the local environment focusing on increasing the quality of the products of fish and other aquatic fauna so as to be able to meet both the domestic and export demands”. No definition of the word ‘aquaculture’ is included as part of the Law.

        Laotian legislations usually refer to culture of aquatic animals as raising or farming fish, or sometime invoke an element of aquaculture such as fish pond.
        Guidelines and codes of conduct
        The Fisheries Law prohibits certain destructive practices in fisheries and aquaculture such as use of poison, explosives, weapons, electrical devices, bright lights, and noise- making devices. The Law also bans; the use of any fishing gear which unduly obstructs the passage of aquatic fauna; harvesting fish from natural body of water either by blocking a stream, a marsh, a channel or by digging a pond or by draining a permanent natural pond; and fishing during spawning season. In addition, the Law calls for strict adherence to limitations in relation to conservation zones and prohibited spawning areas designated by FMCs.

        As a member of ASEAN, a number of regional guidelines and standards on aquaculture are applicable to Lao PDR. These include Guidelines for: the Use of Chemicals in Aquaculture and Measures to Eliminate the Use of Harmful Chemicals; Standard on ASEAN Good Aquaculture Practices for Shrimp Farming (ASEAN Shrimp GAP); and Guidelines on ASEAN Good Aquaculture Practices (ASEAN GAqP) for Food Fish. ASEAN has also adopted practical guides for: Good Shrimp Farm Management Practice; Development of High Health Penaeus monodon Broodstock; and Hatchery Production of Penaeus Monodon. Until now, Loa PDR is yet to translate these regional norms into national guidelines, codes or standards.
        International arrangements
        Lao PDR is a member of:
        • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO);
        • World Trade Organization (WTO);
        • World Organization for Animal Health (OIE);
        • The Global Environment Facility (GEF);
        • Mekong River Commission (MRC);
        • Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN);
        • Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA); and
        • Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC).
        Lao PDR is a party to:
        • - Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD);
        • - Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB);
        • - Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES);
        • - United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); and
        • - Convention on Wetlands of International Importance or RAMSAR Convention.
        Authorization system
        Aquaculture of protected species needs special approval by the Government. Aquaculture of controlled species can be done only in designated areas and requires authorization from Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) in accordance with specific conditions. These restrictions apply to both family and commercial models of aquacultures. The 2009 Law lists 9 species as protected and 9 as controlled. The rest is considered common species, 21 of which are part of an illustrative list annexed to the Law.

        According to Article 14 of the Fisheries Law, family aquaculture must operate within a pond or body of water not exceeding the area of 15 000 m2 or utilizing cages not exceeding 120 m2 per family. Family aquaculture is considered by the Law to be for primary use in the daily life of the family and is generally exempt from the licensing requirements.

        Commercial aquaculture for trade and distribution requires license and registration in accordance with the Fisheries Law and the Investment Promotion Law, the latest version of which includes amendments in 2016. If commercial aquaculture operates within a pond or body of water with the area between 15 000-50 000 m2 or utilizing cages the size between 120-250 m2, the operation must acquire approval from relevant municipal/district Agriculture and Forestry Office. If the area of the ponds are greater than 50 000 m2 or the size of the cages are greater than 250 m2, it is necessary to seek prior approval from provincial/capital Agriculture and Forestry Office. In the approval application process, consents from related FMCs also need to be obtained.
        Access to land and water
        Article 23 of Fisheries Law promotes the protection of habitats and ecosystems for the conservation of aquatic biodiversity by establishing Fish Conservation Zones (FCZs). FCZs are declared by village-level fisheries regulations mostly promulgated by FMCs. Once designated, all fisheries operations must not damage or jeopardize the integrity of FCZs as well as other assigned breeding and spawning grounds.

        Lao PDR implements socialist conception of land use rights. Land is regarded as a national heritage belonging to the national community as a whole. However, the Land Law of 2003 protects the legal interest of the holder of land use rights, which encompass the rights to use the land, collect income from the land, transfer land use rights, use land as a collateral and pass land use rights to close family members.

        The Land Law classifies lands into several categories including agricultural land, forest land and water area land. Allocation, scope of use and management of each category of land involve different approvals and limitations. Decree on the Implementation of the Land Law was promulgated in 2008 to provide more details in this regard. Moreover, Protected Areas can be established under the Forestry Law according to relevant provisions under the competence of Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF).
        The Environmental Protection Law, originally enacted in 1999 and amended in 2012, includes requirements to conduct Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (EISA) and Initial Environmental Examination (IEE). The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Department within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the impact evaluation process, and issuing compliance certificates upon its successful completion.

        The 2010 Decree on Environmental Impact Assessment addresses two categories of investment projects necessitating impact assessments: Category 1 investment projects, which are small or create fewer impacts on the environment and society, thus only require IEEs; and Category 2 large investment projects which are complicated or create substantial impacts on the environment and society, and require EISAs.

        According to the 2013 list issued by MONRE, fish raising and aquaculture project of pond size of 10 ha or more or of cage size of 300 m2 or more would trigger the requirement to conduct IEEs. For crocodile raising, the threshold for IEE requirement is 100 heads.
        Water and wastewater
        Article 37 of the Fisheries Law imposes obligations on all commercial fisheries and aquaculture operations to ensure that environmental impacts are within specified standards. Even though Lao PDR has not yet promulgated point source pollution limits for aquaculture operations, Article 38 explicitly prohibits discharge of waste, polluted water and chemicals into bodies of water.

        Lao PDR’s Law on Water Resources, recently updated in 2017, prescribes standards for natural water and wastewater discharge. To discharge wastewater including used water from agriculture, a discharge permit is required to ensure adherence to treatment and other requirements.
        Fish movement
        Article 32 of Fisheries Laws allows for specific regulations of all aspects of commercial fisheries beyond production such as processing, propagation, distribution, import, export, re-export and transit of fish. However, Lao PDR is still yet to put these regulations in place.

        Nonetheless, international and domestic movements of live animals fall under the regulatory authority of the 2008 Law on Livestock Production and Veterinary Matter (recently updated in late 2016). Import of live fish requires authorization and possession of certificate of origin and health certificate. Regional Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for Responsible Movement of Live Aquatic Animals in ASEAN also applies to Lao PDR.

        Fish Escapement

        Despite the huge diversity of fish in Lao PDR, the 11 most important fish species used in aquaculture are all introduced species. However, Lao PDR has no specific legal provisions with regards to fish escapement or the introduction of alien species. Nonetheless, Article 23 of the Fisheries Law on Protection of Habitat and Ecosystem can provide necessary legislative space for necessary fish containment or escapement prevention measures.

        According to the country Agro-Biodiversity Programme and Action Plan for 2015 – 2025, both plant and animal invasive alien species pose a significant threat to agricultural production. The document outlines some activities to improve control of the spread of invasive alien species including promoting resilience of aquatic-systems, adaptation to climate change and control of alien aquatic species in Lao wetlands. Within the Action Plan, Living Aquatic Resources Research Center (NAFRI) is tasked with developing aquaculture systems for 17 indigenous fish species to increase farm incomes through the judicious use of natural biodiversity.
        Disease control
        Article 37 of the Fisheries Law prescribe that all fisheries operators and aquaculture farmers have the obligations to inspect and monitor the health of fish and other aquatic animals. They also have the duty to identify and carry out timely solutions in case of outbreaks and epidemics.

        The Law on Livestock Production and Veterinary Matters also prescribes measures for surveillance, monitoring and reporting as well as control of epidemic disease of animals. The 2016 amendments requires people who suspect the onset of any disease to inform animal husbandry and veterinary affairs authorities within 24 hours. Once informed, the authorities must take immediate response measures to prevent the further spread of the disease. These include designating control zones, using chemicals to exterminate the suspected pathogen, and prohibiting the movement of infected livestock. If the disease is found to have affected humans, the veterinary affairs authorities are required to inform the health authorities within 24 hours.
        Law on Livestock Production and Veterinary Matter mandates that veterinary drugs acquire certificate of quality from competent authority of the country of origin or manufacturing country. Government permit is also needed for import. Furthermore, compliance with technical standards is required for production of vaccines and drugs.

        The 2016 amendments to the Law prohibits farmers from using growth-enhancing substances that also have side effects on human health. The amendments also require all production chain processes to follow safety guidelines, including those on chemical use.

        Lao PDR updated its Law on Chemicals in 2016 categorizing chemicals into 4 types:
        • Type I: extremely dangerous chemicals – prohibited except for research purposes;
        • Type II & III: very dangerous and moderately dangerous chemicals manufacturing and imports must be approved by the industry and commerce authority, and managed according to the relevant regulations; and
        • Type IV: slightly dangerous chemicals – only requires notification to the authorities
        Bylaws to fully implement this update is forthcoming. In addition to the national Law, ASEAN Guidelines for the Use of Chemicals in Aquaculture and Measures to Eliminate the Use of Harmful Chemicals is application to aquaculture operation in the country.
        The Agricultural Law of 1998 defines animal feed as material used to raise animals that is derived from nature, production, or processing, from agricultural produce and other substances that have nutritional value. The Law further classifies feeds into 3 types
        • Fresh foods, such as: green grass, seeds;
        • Semi-processed foods, such as: rice bran, rice stalks, fermented grass, hay; and
        • Processed food, such as: food processed according to a nutritional formula
        The Law on Livestock Production and Veterinary Matters regulates the production and distribution of animal feeds. To conduct any feed-related business, license to operate needs to be obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF). In addition, the Law demands that feed production complies with technical standards to guarantee the quality of feed (i.e. suitability for animals) and to prevent adverse impacts on society and the environment. For import and sale of feed, the Law imposes reporting requirements.
        Food safety
        Law on Food of 2004 governs the entire food chain from primary production to consumer in Lao PDR. The Law envisions all food in the country complying with issued food standards. For initial/primary production of food which comprises cultivation and animal husbandry, the Law requires producers to employ all necessary conditions and measures to ensure that the products for the consumer are safe, such as: avoid germs, toxic fungi, bacteria, toxic chemical substances and chemical traces in excess of defined standards. Actors along the value chain must also follow safety and hygiene requirements in the storage and transit of these products throughout the process.

        The Law on Food is further elaborated by National Food Safety Policy of 2009 and Ministerial Regulation on the Basic Principles in the Application of Sanitary and Technical Measures for the Food Safety Management of 2009. These two documents outline some food safety measures for agricultural production including:
        • Promotion of organic agricultural production, good agricultural production (clean production), without using chemical and toxic agents;
        • Establishment of criteria and monitoring systems for the safety of raw materials which become food; and
        • Dissemination of information to farmers and producers regarding to the methods of clean and safe production, harvests, hunt/catch, storage and transportation.
        Aquaculture investment 
        Recent update in 2016 to the Law on Investment Promotion highlights clean, toxic-free agriculture including animal breeding as one of its priority business sectors. Aquaculture is classified as part of Promotion Level 1 eligible for the highest level of tax and duty incentives. For a project to qualify, it must be of at least two hundred million Kip in value, or employ at least 30 Lao skilled labor or has fifty or more Lao national employees with employment contract of at least 1 year.

        In addition to incentive by business sectors, Lao PDR also promotes incentives by zones to attract economic activities to poor and remote areas in mountainous or plateau regions with minimum infrastructure and unfavorable socio-economic conditions. This is to help contribute to poverty reduction, improvement of people’s living conditions, construction of infrastructure, human resource development, and jobs creation. Profits from Promotion Level 1 investment in rural zone can be exempt from tax and other duties for up to a period of 10 years.
        Law on Food (2013) [translation not available]
        Law on Livestock Production and Veterinary Matter (2016) [translation not available]
        Law on Water and Water Resources (2017) [translation not available]
        Related resources

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        Country profiles: Lao People's Democratic Republic
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