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Inland fisheries of the Union of Myanmar (by Win Oo)

Ministry of Livestock and Department of Fisheries, No. 12/BF, Lake Road Hlaing,
Township Yangon, Myanmar


Marine fisheries in Myanmar accounts for about 75 percent of the total fish production, with the rest coming from fresh waters. Cold water fisheries is limited to four states, i.e. Kachin, Kayah, Chin and Shan, which are situated in the hilly and remote region of the country. In the fiscal year 2000-2001 cold water capture fisheries production was 7 711 t, aquaculture 2848 t, as compared to the total inland capture fisheries production of 235 373 t, aquaculture 109 188 t, plus 6 603 t of prawn production from aquaculture. Cold water fishery resources are poorly known as there have been virtually no surveys and research done in recent years. Cold water fish are an important source of protein for the hill people, and there is an urgent need for cold water fisheries development with the assistance of international organisations. Fish consumption in Myanmar is 21 kg per caput per year.


The fisheries sector plays a vital role in the culture and socio-economic life of Myanmar. Traditionally Myanmar people prefer freshwater fish to marine fish. With the population of Myanmar 50 million in the year 2000 the per caput fish consumption was 21 kg/year.

Of the fourteen states of Myanmar four are situated in the temperate region. Myanmar has extensive water resources, both inland and marine. Its river system consists of 2 000 km of Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy), Sittaung and Thanlwin (Salween) rivers and 2 600 km of tributaries and smaller rivers combined. Myanmar has many natural lakes and there are 260 reservoirs. Inland fisheries production comes mostly from floodplains, the water surface of which covers some 6 million hectares during 4-5 months of the year. Myanmar also has 2 800 km of coastline with vast stretches of mangroves. The list of freshwater fish in Kachin, Chin and Shan states of Myanmar is presented as Annex 1.


Myanmar has vast potential for the development of aquaculture. While aquaculture development started in the 1960s most fishermen still practice traditional methods of fishing. Prior to the 1960s there was no agency to develop aquaculture mainly because of easy access to and regular supply of fish from inland fisheries resources. In 1975 the Department of Fisheries succeeded in mass production of carp fry using hypophysation technology. Induced breeding and hatchery technique for freshwater fish is now a well developed aquaculture technology. Aquaculture in Myanmar is presently limited to twelve freshwater finfish, one freshwater prawn and one marine shrimp. Three new species have been added last year. Aquaculture is practiced largely in fresh water and brackish water along the coastal area, and on a limited scale in sea water.

In 1999, the Government laid down a very special plan to increase and develop shrimp and fish culture on 48 583 ha and 26 291 ha, respectively, by 2003. There had been a significant increase in production from about 3 000 tons in 1981-1982 to over 85 000 tons in 1998-1999. In 1992, the Department of Fisheries released 1.8 million fish seed into reservoirs and other water bodies, and in the year 2000 it stocked 188.72 million fry and fingerlings.

Due to the continuing deterioration of fish habitat and inland fish stocks the Government has encouraged the industry to increase fish production through aquaculture and aquaculture-based fishery. In response to the new policy aquaculture production started to increase rapidly in the early 1990s. It is clear that with the limitation of capture fisheries resources the expansion of aquaculture is a must and essential for closing the gap between supply and demand for aquatic food products. A key factor in the rapid development of aquaculture in Myanmar is the increasing availability of hatchery produced fish seed and intensification of R&D activities. There is a huge potential for the development of aquaculture, especially of mariculture that is yet to be initiated in Myanmar. It has been envisaged that with combined efforts by the government, cooperatives and private sector the aquaculture industry will expand very rapidly.

The national development goals and aspirations include food security, higher farm income, employment generation to absorb excess rural labor, and increase in export earnings. The emphasis is on the development of a national technological base through research on breeding and seed production, diversification of aquaculture practices, nutrition and feed development, strengthening training and extension, product development and quality assurance.

Integrated management of coastal and marine areas is recognized as an essential tool for development and environmental protection. The fishery, including aquaculture, is a significant major source of protein. For this reason the Department of Fisheries has encouraged the expansion of aquaculture through proper management so as not to cause environmental degradation. Intensive culture, improper use of chemicals, destruction of mangroves and other habitats, discharge of untreated wastes, etc., are considered grave offences, and are dealt with accordingly.

The State, having been empowered by the Forest law 1992, declared all mangrove forests as protected areas. Fishing within three hundred yards around mangrove areas is strictly prohibited. In order to ensure the sustainable development of aquaculture techniques and to promote mangrove-friendly aquaculture practices strict guidelines were laid down by the Department of Fisheries.

In Myanmar, the quality of marine and freshwater resources is still good and the Government is exerting uttermost care to protect and conserve the resources.

The newly established department and offices for environmental issues within the National Commission for Environmental Affairs (NCEA) are formulating and implementing sustainable environmental policies and enforcing existing legislation in order to reduce pollution. At state or division level there is a need for environmental scientists and an organization to be responsible for environmental management. Since local fisheries officers have limited experience in environmental management and there is inadequate cooperation among or assistance from government agencies, the enforcement is inadequate and poorly implemented. In addition, the public is not sufficiently informed. There is a need to formulate programmes of public awareness. To establish sound environment policies for uses of water, land, forests, minerals, marine resources and other natural resources in order to conserve the environment and prevent its degradation, the Department of Fisheries has adopted the National Environment Policy of Myanmar.

The policy is as follows:

"The wealth of a nation is its people, its culture heritage, its environment and its natural resources. The objectives of Myanmar's environment policy are aimed at achieving harmony and balance between these through the integration of environmental considerations into the development forces to enhance the quality of all its citizens. Every national has the sovereign right to utilize its natural resources in accordance with its environmental policies, but great care must be taken not to exceed its jurisdiction or infringe upon the interests of other nations. It is the responsibility of the Government and every citizen to preserve its natural resources in the interest of present and future generations. Environmental protection should always be the primary objective in seeking development."

The Department of Fisheries has also issued notifications regarding wastewater management for processing plants and aquaculture farms.

Myanmar is mainly an agricultural country. There are many by-products from agriculture activities which represent potential substitute materials for fishmeal. Raw materials such as soybean, groundnut cake, sesame cake, sunflower seed cake, cotton seed cake, broken rice, rice bran are used in aquaculture traditionally. Fish farmers use the material as traditional aqua-feed. Ten years ago, prawn and shrimp culture farms started to use pellets. Myanmar has plenty of marine fish for fishmeal preparation. The Department of Fisheries is setting up a nutritional laboratory. However, nutrition specialists are as yet very few in number.

In 1985, an outbreak of epizootic ulcerative syndrome (EUS) occurred in Myanmar. It occurred only for a short period and was brought under control before it became widespread and had a major socio-economic impact. On fish and shrimp farms diseases are not common and this concerns also parasitic infections. An aquatic animal health management unit is already established in the Department of Fisheries but the technologies and equipment need to be upgraded. Introductions of new species must receive permission from the Department of Fisheries prior to being brought into the country.

Experience, chemicals and equipment are the key components in establishing biotechnology. Myanmar would welcome if regional organizations such as SEAFDEC would offer more training and technical assistance in genetic engineering technology.

The Government has programmed and taken responsibility for rural development. This involves enhancing agriculture, poultry farming and aquaculture to generate income for rural communities and border areas. The Department of Fisheries is distributing the technologies to those areas. The Government encourages the rural communities by providing quality seed, bank loans and assistance in obtaining land. Freshwater aquaculture is being practiced by grass roots in rural and border areas, and some is integrated with paddy and livestock.


Poor management of capture fisheries is threatening the fish supply in the near future. This means that more effective management is urgently required. But the management must be fitted to the prevailing fisheries status of the country. The approach to fisheries management must also change from the conventional system to a more appropriate management system. The Government has to take responsibility to ensure that effective measures are implemented. The fisheries sector is very important in Myanmar's economy, as fish constitute a major source of animal protein in the diet of the people. Sustainability of fisheries is urgently required and must be based on an appropriate policy. Fisheries (species, areas, use of fishing gear and boats) must be approved by appropriate authorities.

Decentralization of management is essential for promoting broader management of the fisheries because fisheries problems are being encountered in rural areas. Local government authority and communities should take responsibility for determining the management policy, taking full consideration of the local knowledge, as the nature of fisheries is not uniform throughout the country. Although management is decentralized, the central government maintains its full authority, especially over high seas and distant water fisheries and for coordination of decentralisation of management. It is therefore suggested that the selected functions and responsibilities are delegated and shared with the local government authority and community.

Stock enhancement coupled with well disciplined fishing rights may be the proper management approach to capture fisheries. In some inland waters recruitment from the wild stocks is insufficient and enhancement, particularly through releases of hatchery produced juveniles, may be needed. For this reason the Government of Myanmar has been implementing seed stocking project, for the last two decades. Stocking of quality fish seed in open waters including lakes, reservoirs, canals, rivers, etc., has been regularly undertaken to generate more fish.

Fish and rice form the basis for the food security for Myanmar people, with an average fish consumption of 21 kg per caput per year. In the fiscal year 2000-2001 inland capture fisheries contributed 235 373 t, culture fisheries 109 188 t, plus 6 603 t from prawn farming. During the same year marine fisheries harvested 848 442 t plus 83 042 t of shrimp. Inland fisheries thus contributed approximately 25 percent of the total fisheries output. Since the majority of people live along the four big rivers and in delta regions the freshwater fish from the inland capture fisheries is a mainstay not only in the daily diet but also in trade. It is believed that inland fisheries production could be increased. There is an effort both from the government and the private sector to better utilize all resources to meet the increasing demand. With such a high importance of the inland fisheries sector in the food security it seems certain that action must be taken in order to include the sector in the national and regional process and to preserve the sector from negative impacts of any unregulated and undisciplined industry, in order not to endanger the food security. It is important that countries with huge natural inland water resources such as Myanmar determine the size of the resources related to their role in the food security and take appropriate action to manage and preserve them for their sustainability.


Kachin, Kayah, Chin and Shan states are situated in hilly regions of the country and have a cooler climate than the rest of the country. The list of fish species (see below) is based largely on older literature as there has been no recent work done on fish and fisheries of these remote areas.

Some cold water streams in Putao in Kachin State, Lake Indawgyi (length 25 km, width 10 km), Lake Inle in Shan State (length 23 km, width 12 km), and Lake Reeve in Chin State (length 5 km, width 5 km) were surveyed and fish species identified. Cold waters have no exotic species and are not overfished. Fish are captured traditionally by using home-made equipment. The captured fish is enough for family consumption only. There is also some fish culture in these states. In the year 2000-2001 the total production from freshwater capture fisheries in the four states was 7711 tons, most of it coming from the Kachin State (6 599 t). The total aquaculture production was 2 848 t, most of it produced in Shan State (2048 t).

The region does not have major environmental problems as yet. To prevent environmental degradation some measures are being taken in preserving good quality water in Indawgyi and Inlay lakes. Reeve Lake has at present no environmental degradation problem.

Fish fingerlings are stocked in these lakes under the supervision of the state sector which is also in charge of any further fishery development measures. No exotic cold water species are at present in cold waters of Myanmar. The mountain regions have an insufficient supply of fish from their own resources and therefore fish are brought in from other areas.

Due to the remoteness of the mountain areas and difficult access, there have been only few studies on fish and on fishery activities in the cold regions of Myanmar. Basic studies are needed, such as on fish species distribution and biodiversity, behaviour and the current fishing pressure. Research should be carried out on cold water lakes Reeve, Indawgyi and Inlay.

Due to the shortage of fish as food in the remote regions of Myanmar there is a need to assess the potential for further cold water aquaculture development. Once it has been decided to go ahead there will be need for breeding technology. Myanmar cordially invites interested individuals or groups to visit the mountain region, to conduct research and carry out pilot studies on cold water aquaculture appropriate for hilly regions of Myanmar.

Annex 1

List of freshwater fish species of Kachin, Chin and Shan states, Myanmar

Aborichthys kempi
Acanthopthalmus pangia
Akysis prashadi
Akysis variegatus
Ambassis baculis
Ambassis ranga
Amblyceps horae
Amblyceps mangois
Amblyceps murray stuarti
Amblypharyngodon atkinsonii
Amphipnous cuchia
Anabas testudineus
Aoria (macroponoides) dayi
Aoria aor
Aoria bleekeri
Aoria carassius
Aoria gudio
Aoria leucophasis
Aoria pulchar
Aspidoparia morar
Badis badis
Badis dario
Bagarius bagarius
Balitora brucei
Balitora maculata
Barbodes hexagonolepis
Barilius bendelisis
Barilius barna
Barilius guttatus
Batasio tengana
Belone concica
Botia berdmorei
Botia grandis
Brachydanio choprai
Brachydanio rerio
Callichrous pabo
Callichrous pabta
Catla catla
Chanda ranga
Channa burmanica
Channa gachua
Channa harcourtbutleni
Channa marulius
Channa punctatus
Channa striatus
Chaudhuria caudata
Chela laubuca
Chela sardinella
Chela sladeni
Chopraia rupicola
Cirrhinus latia
Cirrhinus mrigala
Clarias batrachus
Colisa fasciata
Crossocheilus latius
Cyprinion semiplotum
Cyprinus carpio
Cyprinus intha
Danio aequipinnatus
Danio daniconius
Doryichthys dunckeri
Epalzeorhynchus siamensis
Erethistes asperus
Erethistes conta
Esomus altus
Euchiloglanis feae
Euglyptosternum lineatum
Eutropiichthys vacha
Exostoma stuarti
Exostoma vinciguerrae
Exotoma labiatum
Gagata cenia
Garra gotyla
Garra gravelyi
Garra kempi
Garra lamta
Garra nasuta
Glyptosternum lineatum
Glyptosternum madraspatanum
Glyptosternum malaisei
Glyptosternum pectinopterum
Glyptothorax burmanicus
Glyptothorax cavia
Glyptothorax dorsalis
Glyptothorax platypogonoides
Glyptothorax tuberculatus
Gudusia variegate
Hara filamentosa
Heteropneustes fossilis
Indostomus paradoxus
Inlecypris auropurpureus
Labeo angra
Labeo boga
Labeo calbasu
Labeo dero
Labeo gonius
Labeo pangusia
Laubuca laubuca
Lepidocephalichthys berdmorei
Lepidocephalichthys guntea
Macrognathus caudiocellatus
Mastacembelus armatus
Mastacembelus dayi
Mastacembelus oatesii
Microphis duenkeri
Microrasbora erythromicron
Miscrorasbora rubescens
Monopterus albus
Monopterus cuchia
Mystus bleekeri
Mystus gulio
Mystus seengala
Nemacheilus botia aureus
Nemacheilus brevis
Nemacheilus brunneanus
Nemacheilus multifasciatus
Neolissocheilus hexastichus
Notopterus chitala
Notopterus notopterus
Olyra horai
Ompok bimaculatus
Ompok pabda
Ompok pabo
Oreinus plagiostomus
Osteobrama belangeri
Osteobrama cunma
Osteobrama feae
Parasphaerichthys ocellitus
Physochistura brunneana
Proeutropiichthys macrophthalmus
Propuntius myitkinae
Pseudambassis roberti
Pseudecheneis sulcatus
Pseudeutropius takree
Pseudolaguria tuberculatus
Psilorhynchus balitora
Pterocryptis burmanensis
Pterocryptis cochinensis
Pteroglanopsis horai
Puntius ticto
Puntius blythii
Puntius burmanicus
Puntius charunio
Puntius chola
Puntius chrysopterus
Puntius compressiformes
Puntius conchonius
Puntius dukai
Puntius hexagonolepis
Puntius hexastichus
Puntius myitkyinae
Puntius orphoides
Puntius phutunio
Puntius sarana
Puntius sophore
Puntius sphanicus
Puntius stedmanansis
Puntius stoliczkanus
Rasbora daniconius
Rasbora rasbora
Rohtee alferendiana
Rohtee balengeri
Rohtee feae
Sawbwa resplendens
Schistura malaisa
Schistura sikmaiensis
Semiplotus cirrhosus
Semiplotus modestus
Silurus burmanensis
Silurus cochinchinensis
Silurus torrentis
Tetraodon cutcutia
Tor mosal
Tor tor
Trichogaster fasciatus
Walago attu
Xenentodon cancila
Yunanilus brevis

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