Towards Sustainable Co-Management of Mekong River Inland Aquatic Resources, Including Fisheries, in Southern Lao PDR
The importance of fish and fisheries with regards to protected area management has often been neglected due to the focus of biological surveys and management initiatives on large mammals and birds. In Khong district in southern Lao P.D.R. villagers claim that aquatic resources have significantly benefited from their co-management, and in addition there have been unexpected spin-off benefits in terms of terrestrial wildlife and forest management and conservation.~The advantages of fisheries co-management include the familiarity and indigenous ecological knowledge that villagers hold for fish - a daily used and valuable resource; the high reproductive capacity of fish resulting in a relatively high potential for visible positive results to management; and the fact that it is sometimes easier to demarcate protected areas for fish than for often more mobile large mammals and birds. ~However a number of obstacles can exist to implementing living aquatic resource management in protected areas. For example, as in Khong District, problems can exist in relation to mutual trust and respect between villagers and protected areas staff, as well as there being institutional constraints, a lack of documentation of indigenous fish and understanding of their life cycle, and village to village conflict. Despite this, fisheries co-management can be successful as this paper illustrates and especially where an interdisciplinary approach to protected area management is implemented. In addition, it can also act as a good entry point for conducting other community-based management activities.