Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission

New approaches for the improvement of inland capture fishery statistics in the Mekong Basin

Category Overviews, statistics & assessments


Inland capture fisheries provide a valuable contribution to food security in the Mekong Basin. However, official national estimates of this contribution have consistently been lower than estimates derived from more focused and localized fishery surveys. Thus, inland capture fisheries are undervalued by decision makers and development agencies. The poor state of knowledge on inland fisheries arises from the diverse nature of inland fisheries, that fisheries are often small-scale and dispersed over large areas, that inland fishers have inadequate political power, the misconception that inland fisheries are not valuable, the local consumption or bartering of inland fisheries harvest, and the excessive power of certain stakeholders that do not want the actual value known.

Development activities may then inappropriately focus on other sectors at the expense of rural communities that depend on inland fisheries. Accurate information on the contribution of inland fisheries is essential for responsible development. Key uses of accurate information identified at the Expert Consultation were: i) to determine the status and trends of the fishery and the environment, ii) to assess correctly the value of inland fisheries, iii) to allocate appropriate resources to the inland fishery sector, and iv) to fulfill international obligations.

In general, information collection in the Mekong is based on figures collected from government fishery officers assessing catch and effort data. These methods are best suited to formal, large-scale fisheries, but are inappropriate for many of the small- scale, informal fisheries of the Mekong Basin. Alternative approaches are being developed and evaluated that include individual fishers, household and communities, and proxy measures of fishery yield. Besides the traditional catch and effort surveys, approaches to improve information on inland fisheries were identified to include agriculture surveys, consumption studies (including household surveys), market surveys, geo-referenced information, habitat classification and measurement, and establishment of co-management or fishery user groups.

In the lower Mekong Basin, the primary information need was yield. The informal and formal fishery sectors must be treated differently to obtain accurate information on both. The results from focused studies on particular habits or fisheries can be extrapolated to provide information on a wider area within the basin. There is a strong seasonal component to the fisheries that must be considered and the capacity and status of local fishery officers must be increased in order to facilitate accurate reporting. Useful information already exists in project reports, with NGOs and IGOs, and in government offices that should be analyzed, and stakeholders in inland fisheries should form partnerships with other users of inland water resources.