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Buffaloes and traditional ploughs are used in rice cultivation as part of an integrated watershed development project in Southeast Asia
Buffaloes and traditional ploughs are used in rice cultivation as part of an integrated watershed development project in Southeast Asia


Human induced changes to inland aquatic resources are manifold, with the greatest threat to the sustainability of inland fishery resources being the degradation of the environment. Land and forest degradation combined with pollution has led to the loss of biodiversity, degradation and loss of habitats. Of 145 large watersheds around the world, accounting for 55% of a combined land surface, showed that in particular China, India and Southeast Asia stood out as areas where pressures on watersheds are intensifying.

In arid and semi-arid countries, the irrigation demands for water have resulted in fundamental changes in fish diversity and there is an increasing urgency for major changes in watershed management to protect fishery resources. Other areas of high risk are those with high population densities, such as floodplains, or near major lakes where catchment degradation is escalating, and becoming the major constraint to sustaining, or increasing, fish production. These effects can be reduced by improved integrated resource management, incorporating basin-wide approach to multiple-use considerations for freshwater resources. Where opportunities for participation in the development activities that fuel these environmental changes are limited, localised food insecurity becomes a fact.

Resolution of conflicts among the various users in river and lake basins is given an increasing attention, especially in relation to two areas of potential conflicts: that involving international basin management, and that between user groups. The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River, the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine River, the Mekong River Commission may serve as examples of co-ordinated basin management. Among the priorities is promotion of economic and social evaluation of inland fisheries, aquaculture production, fishing communities, fish populations and aquatic environments in general.

Global action

As early as 1984, the FAO World Fisheries Conference endorsed a Strategy for Fisheries Management and Development that incorporated environmental concerns. The twenty-fifth Session of the FAO Conference in November 1989 examined the major trends and policies in food and agriculture, and considered that insufficient attention to the environmental impact of certain agricultural practices has led to extensive environmental damage. The Conference concluded that FAO should intensify its interdisciplinary work to ensure integration of environmental considerations into all relevant FAO activities, so that environmental degradation affecting agriculture, fisheries and forestry could be halted and reversed.

In Asia and the Pacific and identified possible management strategies for increasing the efficiency of inland fisheries under constraints both in the humid high rainfall and arid zones in the region. The achievements resulting from the management of inland fisheries in irrigation systems in arid countries of Central Asia may provide solutions to the problems faced by other countries situated in the arid belt of Asia.

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