Inland Fisheries

Cold Water Fisheries in the Trans-Himalayan Countries

Aquatic biodiversity and inland fisheries

The Symposium on Cold Water Fishes of the Trans-Himalayan Region was held on the 10-13 July 2001 in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was jointly organized by the Directorate of Fisheries Development, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, His Majesty's Government of Nepal, Nepal Agriculture Research Council, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific, in co-sponsorship with the Nepal Fisheries Society, the World Conservation Union and Worldwide Fund for Nature. The Symposium was attended by over 70 scientists, planners, policy makers, private entrepreneurs, representatives from 10 countries of the Trans-Himalayan and neighbouring regions: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China P.R., India, Iran, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, and representatives of international and regional organizations including the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the Bagmati Integrated Watershed Management Programme (BIWMP), and the Mekong River Commission (MRC).

The Trans-Himalayan region, as defined by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), encompasses the midland and highland areas of the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China PR., India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan. In the region, characterized by rugged terrain and very low levels of human development, fisheries play an important role in providing food and income to the people. The objectives of the Symposium were to share information on the status of indigenous fish species in the Trans-Himalayan region, improve understanding of their importance in peoples' livelihoods and assess their current level of exploitation. The Symposium was designed to consolidate information, experiences, ideas and findings related to fish species distribution, fishing intensity, socio-economic conditions and livelihoods of fisher communities, impact of environment degradation, conservation measures and aquaculture technologies for indigenous and exotic cold water fish in the region. The Symposium highlighted the role that fisheries play in providing food and income to people within the Trans-Himalayas and Karakoram. Countries of the Trans-Himalayan region are making efforts to utilize cold water fish for the reduction of poverty and some successful strategies are emerging.

The Kathmandu Symposium put forward a number of priority issues to be addressed in follow-up activities under a Trans-Himalayan regional programme. These include the need for more research, training and education into Himalayan aquatic ecosystems, especially the biology and behaviour of coldwater fish stocks, migration patterns and environmental impacts, for strengthening of fisheries data collection and dissemination, and for improved access to, analysis and synthesis of the existing information and experience. A better integration of fisheries development within the overall ecosystem and rural development approach, under full consideration of ecological, social and economic values of fisheries in relation to agriculture, conservation and hydroelectric generation, is essential if fisheries is to become a more productive source of food in the region and play its full role in poverty alleviation in mountain countries. Another important issue is the need of better understanding of socio-economic conditions and livelihoods of fisher communities. This would assist in formulating better management interventions with the objective of improving livelihoods of fishers and farmers in mountain areas. Better promotion of inter-sectoral cooperation and coordination between fishery and other sectors concerned with rural development and water resources management, and improving communications and exchange of experience and information resulting from the above, require close government attention in the countries of the region. Where resources are shared among neighbouring or several countries, interlinking will assist in solving common problems. The Symposium emphasized the need for policy development, that recognises the social and economic importance of aquatic resources and supports poor aquatic resource users, especially for integrated watershed development, gender equity, and poverty alleviation.

Collaborative action on a regional scale would probably be the most cost-effective way to address these common problems and share experiences. The Symposium therefore recommended regional cooperation among countries of the Trans-Himalayan Region be strengthened for effective sharing and exchange of skills, experiences and technical cooperation. To support this regional cooperation, the Symposium recommended a network for development and conservation of cold water fisheries be established among concerned nations in the Trans-Himalayan Region, coordinated by a centre located in a suitable country within the region. International support was also requested for this important regional initiative.

The papers presented at the Symposium are grouped in four sections. In the first section resource paper by Petr reviews the cold water fish and fisheries in the mountain countries of Hindu Kush-Pamir-Karakoram and Himalayas, while their contribution to the livelihoods of the mountain people is dealt with by Phillips et al. One resource paper (Shrestha) is devoted to the host country Nepal. The six country reviews in the second section deal with cold water fish and fisheries in Bhutan (Gyeltshen), Iran (Mehrabi), Myanmar (Oo), Nepal (Swar), China (Wang and Yang), and Pakistan (Yaqoob). Of the 18 experience papers of the third section, 15 deal with fish stocks and fisheries in Nepal. Of these, two (Rajbanshi; Shrestha J.) provide a comprehensive list of cold water fish species, their distribution and taxonomic revision; six papers deal with the most important fish of Nepal, the mahseer (Bista et al.; Gurung et al.; Joshi et al.; Sharma and Mishra; Shrestha T.K.) and snow trout (Rai et al.), including aspects of their aquaculture; one paper deals with the culture of the exotic rainbow trout (Nepal et al.); six papers deal with fish stocks in rivers and lakes (Dhital and Jha; Ranjit; Shrestha et al.; Swar and Craig; Upadhaya and Shrestha; Yadav), with two of the papers also dealing with the socio-economic aspects of fisheries (Dhital and Jha; Ranjit); two papers address the problem of river damming on fish stocks (Gubhaju; Upadhaya and Shrestha). Prospects for fishery enhancement and aquaculture in cold waters of Nepal are discussed by Shrestha et al. Mahseer fishery in India is dealt with by Ogale, while the progress with mahseer aquaculture and its profitability are considered in papers by Bista et al. and by Gurung et al. One paper deals with the production of trout in northern Pakistan (Yaqoob). The fourth section, under the heading Associated topics, contains five papers dealing with the fish and aquaculture in Bangladesh and of the Mekong River. The papers from Bangladesh address aquaculture production in hill districts (Aziz and Hossain), and the prospects of low cost diets in aquaculture (Hossain), respectively. One paper deals with the endangered Mekong giant fish species (Mattson et al.), one paper is devoted to aquaculture of the catfish Aorichthys seenghala (Ratanatrivong et al.), and one to the possibilities of developing aquaculture based on indigenous Mekong fish species (Vibol and Mattson).