The Scoop Net Brigade

Fish netsFishes of the genus Schistura can be commonly found in the rivers of Lao PDR. Catching these small loaches that live among the stones of the riverbed requires some interesting fishing methods, which can vary among different rural localities. Staff in the FISHBIO Laos office observed (and participated in) one such fishing expedition in the Nam Ngiep river while visiting Thaviengthong Village in Xaisomboun Province in central Lao PDR. We documented the unique fishing method in this video.

Groups of women and girls that prepare to go fishing for loaches will gather tree branches and banana leaves that they wrap to form a barrier with a diameter of about 25–30 cm and a length of 3–4 m. They place this structure at the upper end of a rapid, then come to stand in front of it side by side. This group of six to eight people uses scoop nets to catch the loaches. Scoop nets are a common type of traditional fishing gear that women and children use for catching small fish and other aquatic animals (see Little fishers). The fishers hit the rocks with their feet, which scares the fish into the scoop nets. The line of fishers repeats this process until they reach the end of the rapid.

Scoop net fishingWhen they return home, these women will likely use the loaches and other aquatic animals to make food for their families. If they have any surplus, they will sell it in the local market. Schistura fishes will likely be mixed into a soup to eat with sticky rice. Scoop nets are a type traditional type of gear that can be used for fishing without harming all aquatic life. People in Thaviengthong Village believe that the diversity of their aquatic ecosystem would be depleted if they used more modern, destructive fishing methods, such as dynamite or electrofishing. We have observed lines of people fishing with scoop nets in other places in Laos, and are encouraged to see such traditional practices still in use.