Monday November 3, 2014

Society for Conservation Biology

November 3, 2014

The Mekong River Basin, of Southeast Asia, supports more than 850 species of freshwater fish, a diversity of species unmatched in all but a few places in the world. More than 60 million people, from nearly 100 distinct ethnic groups, depend on this diversity of fishes for subsistence and livelihoods. This species-rich region is undergoing rapid change as development increases to ensure energy access for millions of people who live on less than $1 USD per day.

Ensuring access to energy and food security for millions of people living in extreme poverty is complicated. The current development strategy is focused on building hydroelectric dams for energy production and growing the economy. These dams could provide much-needed benefits to the region, but if they’re not built in a calculated way throughout the Basin they may carve up the river, block fish movements, and modify people’s access to their primary source of protein.

Harmony Patricio is the Conservation Director for FISHBIO, an international fisheries consulting company dedicated to fish research, monitoring, and conservation. She is one of the key people driving fish research and conservation in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR), a country heavily dependent on the Mekong River and its fisheries. Harmony has worked with local communities in Lao PDR to successfully train teams of villagers to monitor fisheries and collect essential baseline data to assess the importance of the river and aquatic animals for local livelihoods.

FISHBIO recently received funding from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) to establish three Fish Conservation Zones (FCZs) along the Mekong River. FCZs are a type of Freshwater Protected Area that is designed to conserve or enhance fish populations. The objective of this project is to empower local communities to engage in the conservation and management of their fisheries.

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