Thriving Marine Fisheries in Myanmar: Advancing and building a pipeline of support and capacity for marine conservation and fisheries sustainability
Myanmar’s fisheries and marine ecosystems face numerous threats, including overfishing, a lack of protections for critical habitats and species, and lack of management capacities. Inshore fisheries (largely defined as those within 5-10 nautical miles from shore) have dramatically declined in the last ten years, putting local communities that rely heavily on fishing for livelihoods and overall food security at risk.
To reverse this trend, better fishing and marine conservation policies and practices are urgently needed. Interventions must address the lack of experience and capacity in fisheries management, the dearth of data and information, and the need for community-based fishery management organizations. Fortunately, among fishermen, government, and community leaders there is an eagerness to set Myanmar on course to recover its fisheries, protect coastal ecosystems, and sustain healthy communities.
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) began conducting an initial scoping in Myanmar and in the Gulf of Mottama to identify pilot sites for inshore fisheries reforms in March 2016. The Gulf of Mottama region has habitat that is still relatively healthy. With the right policies, its fisheries and biodiversity could rebound to their once abundant state. The two NGOs identified five pilot sites across the country that could be transformed to high-performing fisheries that model the benefits of reform and serve as proof points and learning laboratories that will inspire replication and scale throughout Myanmar.
One of the five sites (the focus of this project) encompasses three Mon State communities along the Gulf of Mottama (Aung Kan Thar, Zoke Ka Li, and Baing Laung villages) that are highly dependent on fisheries.
Among the three communities identified for this project, there are an estimated 750 fishermen and a further 4,500-5,000 people involved in the fisheries sector, a significant portion of whom are women involved in business management and post-harvest processing. The main target species in this region are croakers, threadfin, crabs, mangofish and hilsa.
This project will help to restore fish populations to previous abundance that contribute to healthy ocean ecosystems and reduce poverty among inshore fishers.
In recognition of the ecological importance of this area, there is an ongoing process to institute the Gulf of Mottama as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, through support from the Community-led Coastal Management Initiative.
- Conserve marine ecosystems, habitats, and biodiversity: The two NGOs will review available literature, collect data to better understand the biological, ecological, social and economic factors that will influence the recovery of the fisheries and strengthening of communities. They will also study the factors involving women and ethnic minority groups.
- Improve local livelihoods through increased fisheries productivity and value
- Strengthen capacity in Myanmar for the local management of living marine resources: EDF and WCS will work with local partners to establish and support community-based co-management committees that will build stewardship by fishermen to protect their fishing grounds.
- Facilitate the understanding and application of sustainable fisheries management;
- Increase social and ecological resilience to climate change: EDF and WCS will support Myanmar institutions by providing education, training, and capacity building so that local institutions are able to fully participate in the management and oversight of their fisheries.