Inland Fisheries

Inland fisheries under the impact of irrigated agriculture: Central Asia

Linkages to water management

This publication contains four papers on general and specific aspects of inland fisheries in the arid region of Central Asia. It discusses the management approaches to maintain fish yields in an aquatic environment highly modified by engineering measures required for irrigated agriculture. With the riverine fish stocks greatly diminished and the most valuable fish, such as sturgeon, shovelnose and Aral trout virtually extinct in the Amu-Darya and Syr-Darya, lacustrine fish were introduced to reservoirs, lakes and irrigation canals where today they represent by far the dominant portion of the total catch. The interconnecting net of irrigation canals has provided perfect migration pathways for redistribution of fish species throughout the Amu-Darya, Syr-Darya and Zarafshan river systems and has contributed, together with exotic fish species introductions, to increasing fish species diversity. In spite of these measures, the fish yields have stayed relatively low. In Uzbekistan the mean fish yield is about 10 kg/ha/year. Much more could be achieved for enhancement of fisheries through introducing a diversity of management measures. Fisheries management plans have been prepared for the individual Uzbekistan water bodies and await implementation. While the direct impact on the original fish fauna of engineering works required for irrigated agriculture in Central Asia is negative, fisheries management can compensate for the losses in production through species introductions and other enhancement measures which would utilize the great diversity of water bodies in the region to their full capacity. Wide exchange of information among the countries of the arid and semi-arid zone through an expert consultation could be a start for developing better strategies for and implementation of fisheries development in irrigated areas.