Community-based, co-managed Fish Conservation Zones (FCZs), which are freshwater no-fishing areas, have become popular tools for managing fish populations in Laos. However, few resources or guidelines exist for assessing whether these protected areas are effectively meeting their goals. The only way to determine whether FCZs are actually working is through monitoring and evaluation. Monitoring is an essential element in the process of adaptive management; however, greater emphasis is often placed on establishing new FCZs without investigating how to make existing and future FCZs better.

This project developed a best-practices guidebook for FCZ monitoring and evaluation as a resource for civil society organizations and government counterparts in Laos. The FCZ guidebook include methods for measuring 21 indicators of biological, social, and governance effectiveness. The project drew on the successes and challenges of establishing FCZs in Laos, as well as on the body of scientific work developed around monitoring and evaluating marine protected areas (MPAs). Another goal of the project was to provide networking opportunities for the many organizations (NGOs, private sector, and government agencies) that have been involved in establishing FCZs throughout Laos.
This project consisted of three major components:

  1. Developing indicators of effectiveness to create a guidebook of best practices for monitoring FCZs in Laos.
  2. Testing the guidebook by working with civil society organizations to measure FCZ indicators at pilot sites in the field.
  3. Refining, finalizing, and disseminating the FCZ monitoring guidebook.

This project was funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund from 2015–2019 and used the Mekong Fish Network as a platform to share project experiences and provide networking opportunities for organizations involved with or interested in FCZs. Project partners include WWF Laos and the Lao Department of Livestock and Fisheries.

The final version of the guidebook can be downloaded here or by visiting the Mekong Fish Network website.

View project photos

Vientiane Times article: Workshop Launches Guidebook to Assess Fish Conservation Zones

Download our one-page
summary of the project


Loury, E.K. and S.M. Ainsley. 2020. Identifying indicators to evaluate community-managed freshwater protected areas in the Lower Mekong Basin: A review of marine and freshwater examples. Water, 12, 3530. DOI: 10.3390/ w12123530


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