A research project to improve fish pathways in a section of the Mekong River in South East Asia has secured an additional $95 000 from Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).
In welcoming the funding, project leader Dr Lee Baumgartner, from CSU's Institute for Land, Water and Society (ILWS) said, "Development along the lower Mekong Basin, including the planned construction of new dams for hydropower and irrigation over the next two decades, challenges the long term sustainability of the world's most productive inland fishery.
"Fishery is extremely important in the lower Mekong Basin. It contributes more than 50 per cent of the animal protein in people's diets and supports the livelihoods of close to 70 million people.
"Mekong River development threatens this productivity, and it is critically important to generate win-win outcomes."
The fish ecologist said similar development in South America significantly decreased fisheries production in the Amazon River.
"Robust science, like we are engaged in through this ACAIR project, is needed to identify, evaluate and mitigate the effects of river development.
"There is much work across the Mekong Basin on fish passage, the ecology of fish moving around the environment"
"Scientists from all over the world are working on innovative ways to protect fish passage, which is important for fish spawning, feeding and dispersal.
"But all of us tend to work independently, rarely sharing information on our successes and challenges."
As an important part of the five-year project, a regional conference is being planned in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, in the middle of November.
Dr Baumgartner said, "Over 160 local and international delegates will be brought together to share knowledge on the successes and opportunities regarding fisheries sustainability in the region.
"It will demonstrate how applied research can be used to enhance policy and decision-making across the lower Mekong Basin to improve the environment and the lives of local communities."
Delegates include government agencies, developers, researchers, local provincial and district leaders and natural resource managers.
The conference, which has also attracted an additional $83 000 (USD) funding from the US government through its Department of the Interior – International Technical Assistance Program, will be hosted by the Living Aquatic Resources Research Centre.
It is the first time that Lower Mekong countries have come together with international experts to share information specifically on fish passage.
The Lower Mekong Fish Passage Conference: Applying Innovation to Secure Fisheries will be held from Monday 14 to Thursday 17 November in Vientiane.
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