In an effort to protect disappearing freshwater fish stocks, Mon State’s first fishery joint management zone has been established in the coastal fishing village of Augn Kan Thar in Thaton township.
“Ninety-five percent [of residents] from Aung Kan Thar village work in the fishing industry, so the designation of a fishery joint management zone will protect fishermen as well as create a strong ecosystem,” Mon State Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, and Transportation U Tun Htay said. He added that similar fishery zones would be established in Bilin, Kyaikhto, Paung, and Chaungzon townships.
The zone stretches from the Bilin stream to Disel Hlyo in Thaton township, and the management team has undertaken a range of efforts to protect the environment and support both fish stocks and fishermen, including planting mangroves, negotiating fish market prices, providing insulated containers to help store fish catches, and supporting security for fished waterways, according to U Than Htike Aung, manager for the Community-Led Coastal Management in the Gulf of Mottama project.
“The fishery joint zone was designated in Aung Kan Thar [village] because it is the main fish breeding area,” said he said. “The fish breed near coastal areas so these kind of zones need to be designated in coastal fishing areas.”
According to the zone management team, fish catches in the Gulf of Mottama have declined between 50 and 90 percent over the past ten years.
“Everyone fishes in this village. Only five people are farmers. Recently, we couldn’t catch much fish due to fish trawling by people from other areas. Their nets are very fine – they can even catch tiny fish, and they can export bigger fish overseas. The small fish they make into fish paste. This prevents fish from entering the stream,” said U Win Ko, a local fisherman and Aung Kan Thar village resident.
The management team has also set restrictions on using fishing nets with mesh smaller than one inch, he said.
The joint management zone is a three-phase, community-led project that initially began in 2015, and set to end in 2025. The first phase of the project will elapse in 2020.
Mon State’s Department of Fisheries has also designated 500 acres of the fishery zone as a joint management crab zone. The fishing zone management team and Department of Forestry have collaborated on planting mangroves in the crab zone to protect the crustaceans’ natural environment.