Mountain fisheries

Mountain countries and regions are characterized by the presence of cold waters, many of which harbour fish and support largely subsistence fisheries that can provide a key source of food and income to mountain communities. The living aquatic resources of the mountain rivers, lakes and reservoirs constitute an important source of animal protein which is often in short supply in mountain regions and are therefore crucial for a balanced nutrition of mountain people. However, high altitude lakes, rivers and streams mostly have a low fish production and stocks are therefore limited and can be easily overexploited. Moreover, they are highly vulnerable to environmental changes, such as deforestation and water pollution.

FAO, often in cooperation with other partners, has a long tradition of paying attention to fisheries development in countries in the hilly regions and mountains of the world. Since the early 1970s, FAO has carried out fisheries surveys of Lake Titicaca on the altiplano of the Bolivian and Peruvian Andes. In Asia over the last 30 years several FAO missions visited countries of the Hindu Kush, Karakoram andHimalayas where, together with the national specialist staff, they assessed and evaluated the situation, formulated project proposals and participated in their implementation. The successful examples are fisheries developments in Nepal and Bhutan, which have substantially boosted fisheries production in these countries. Of particular success was the joint FAO/UNDP/Gov Viet Nam project VIE/98/009 "Microcredit in support of women, poverty alleviation and upland aquaculture in Viet Nam", 1999 - 2003, (in: FI TP No. 440), which aimed to reduce poverty and enhance local food security among poor upland ethnic communities through small-scale aquaculture development. This was done by strengthening the local capacity of poor and remotely located ethnic communities and organizations of the 50 pilot communes located in the three northern upland provinces of Hoa Binh, Son La and Lai Chau. The productivity of small-scale aquaculture in upland areas was increased through the development of appropriate aquaculture technology packages, the establishment of aquaculture extension services, improving local availability of fish seed and a commune-managed credit and savings scheme. Although the project ended long ago, the initiated activities still continue with success.

In 1999, FAO published a review on cold water fisheries in mountain countries of Asia (see publications). In July 2001, FAO, the Government of Nepal, the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other partners organized a Symposium on Coldwater Fishes of the Trans-Himalayan Region in Kathmandu. It brought together 70 participants from ten countries in the region and others outside it to decide on further action. The Symposium concerned itself with three major themes: distribution and conservation of cold water fish, role of cold water fish in rural development and poverty alleviation, and cold water fisheries and aquaculture development.

Normative Work

During the biennium 2004/2005 the Fisheries Department of FAO is meeting the challenges of sustainable mountain development through the programme of Promotion of Responsible Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture. The objective of the programme is to enhance awareness at national and international levels; to promote in national policies the sustainable use of inland fisheries and aquaculture resources, as well as to increase technical capacity of groups operating in the sector, such as the civil society and producer organizations and NGOs, to manage resources according to these principles. 
The Water Resource and Aquaculture Service (FIRI) leads the following activities, related to sustainable mountain development:

  • Prevention of habitat degradation and rehabilitation of inland fish habitats & migration; comparative assessment of fish passes
  • Assistance for rehabilitation of inland fish habitats
  • Review of the effects of dams on fisheries and the aquatic environment

last updated:  Monday, January 21, 2013