Related Projects

Wonders of the Mekong

17 young boy holding a migratory cyprinid cirrhinus microlepis

The Wonders of the Mekong: A Foundation for Sustainable Development and Resilience is an initiative to study the biodiversity, climate, and hydrology of the Mekong River Basin, build partnerships between organizations working toward a sustainable future for the region, and develop educational materials to increase awareness about the value of a healthy Mekong River. The project also hopes to foster discussions about aligning development goals with conservation, and how the Mekong region can adapt to a changing climate

The project is a partnership between the University of Nevada Reno’s Global Water Center and the Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute of Cambodia (IFReDI), with funding from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Other collaborators include FISHBIO, the University of Sydney, and Utah State University. This interdisciplinary team will study the economic, environmental, and cultural importance of the Mekong to describe the tangible and intangible benefits of this rich ecosystem. Follow the project on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more updates.

Project Contact: Zeb Hogan


A Guidebook for Assessing Fish Conservation Zones in Laos

Interviewing Villagers

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. This assessment 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.

Through this project, FISHBIO Laos seeks to develop a best-practices guidebook for FCZ assessment as a resource for civil society organizations and government counterparts in Laos. The FCZ guidebook will include methods for measuring indicators of biological, social, and governance effectiveness. The project will draw on the successes and challenges of establishing FCZs in Laos, as well as on the body of scientific work developed around the assessment of marine protected areas (MPAs). Another goal of the project is 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 consists of three major components:

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

This project is funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, and will use 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: FISHBIO Laos, WWF Laos, and the Lao Department of Livestock and Fisheries.

Hot Fish: Climate Change Impacts on Inland Fisheries

hotfishmontageIn the tropics, freshwater fishes represent an important source of protein for local communities. The thermal ecology of tropical freshwater fishes (i.e., thermal optima and tolerances, temperature specific metabolic scope for activity) has received very little attention. However, research has demonstrated that organisms from thermally stable environments such as the tropics tend to be thermal specialists. It has also been observed that some tropical thermal specialists achieve optimal metabolic performance at temperatures near their upper tolerance limits. Therefore, ectotherms of tropical environments may be exceptionally sensitive to even small changes in thermal regime such as those occurring and anticipated from global climate change.

The ‘Hot fish’ project aims at:
– Providing information on the vulnerability of key tropical freshwater fishes to climate change.
– Improving the capacity of local communities to conduct research projects, through provision of equipment and mentoring, as applicable.

To address our objectives, we will use static respirometry to assess the thermal sensitivity of tropical freshwater fish at three locations:
– Brazil (Amazonian province)
– Uganda (Lake Victoria basin)
– Cambodia (Lake Tonle Sap)

The project addresses a time sensitive conservation problem, and will contribute to the protection of culturally and socio-economically important fish species in tropical regions. As has been demonstrated in the temperate world, respirometry studies of socio-economically important fishes of the tropics could provide the data necessary for a detailed assessment of population level adaptive capacity and the distribution of potentially suitable future habitat.


Project Team:
Dr. Michael Cooperman, Conservation International
Dr. Steven Cooke, Carleton University
Dr. Dominique Lapointe, Carleton University
Dr. Timothy Clark, Australian Institute of Marine Science
Dr. Lauren Chapman, McGill University
Dr. Tony Farrell, University of British Columbia
Dr. Les Kaufman, Boston University & Conservation International
Dr. Adalberto Luis Val, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Da Amazônia

Project Funder: Conservation International (2013-2015)


Catch and Culture Newsletter

Catch and CultureCatch and Culture was established by the Mekong River Commission in 1995 as the fisheries research and development newsletter of the Mekong region. The newsletter is distributed to more than 650 subscribers around the world. Since 1993, it has been edited by Peter Starr, an Australian author and journalist who has been living and working in East Asia since 1986. Chhut Chheana, a veteran Cambodian graphic designer, has been responsible for the layout and design of the newsletter since 2010 when the Mekong River Commission Fisheries Programme moved from Vientiane to Phnom Penh. Catch and Culture is published three times a year in English, usually in April, August and December. Omnibus editions in the Khmer, Lao, Thai and Vietnamese languages are also produced, usually once every year. Back issues are available here as PDF documents:

Project Contact: Peter Starr,

Socio-economic study of fish harvesting and use at Pak Peung wetland in Laos

Fishing in Pak Peung WetlandThis project is investigating whether construction of permanently-operating fishways provide quantifiable social, economic and environmental benefits to floodplain wetlands and communities. A baseline survey of fish harvesting and use by villagers was carried out in September 2011 using semi structured interviews with 60 households from 6 villages around the wetland. Another survey interviewed 23 women and 25 elders in November 2012 from the same villages to explore gender differences and traditional conservation practices. The village survey will be repeated post fishway construction in 2015 to determine any observed differences in fish migration, species abundance, and quantity or quality of fish sold and used by villagers.

Key findings show that villagers spend between 10 and 30 hours per week fishing in the wetland with significantly more hours in the dry season that wet season. Most people fish nearby their village and use gill nets. Forty one species were harvested with five more popular species. Catches varied from 0.5 to 12 kg per day (average 3kg), most of which was consumed or given to relatives. However, increasingly people are selling fish direct to the local market. All respondents reported a decline in fish numbers since the irrigation weir was built in the 1960s. Reasons given were more people fishing using modern methods, habitat destruction and not enough water in the dry season.

Survey results were presented at the annual project meetings in Vientiane in January 2012 and August 2013 with a draft report. A journal paper will be developed for submission in 2015. This is a subproject of ACIAR project FIS 2009 041 “Development of fish passage technology to increase fisheries production on floodplains in the lower Mekong and Murray-Darling River basins.”

Investigators/ Researchers

  • Dr Joanne Millar, Charles Sturt University, Albury (contact: jmillar[at]
  • Dr Lee Baumgartner, Murray Darling Freshwater Centre, Wodonga, Victoria.
  • Dr Wayne Robinson, Charles Sturt University, Albury.
  • Dr Oudom Phonekhampeng, Dean, Faculty of Agriculture, National University of Lao
  • Mr Douangkham Singhanouvong, Deputy Director, Living Aquatic Resources Research Centre, Laos.