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Building the Mekong Fish Network

A report summarizing the outcomes of the 2012 meeting of the proposed Mekong Fish Network is now available online. FISHBIO and the U.S. Geological Survey convened this meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to bring together fish researchers from 20 organizations working across the Lower Mekong Basin. Meeting participants included representatives of government agencies, universities, and non-governmental organizations from Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The meeting laid the foundation for a proposed research network that could help institutions share information and standardize data collection, thereby providing a more comprehensive understanding of Mekong fishes.


Rapid economic developments in the Mekong region may affect its fisheries and food security. However, the lack of critical information on the distribution, abundance, migrations, and ecology of Mekong fishes hampers the ability to inform long-term development planning in this species-rich system. Meeting participants discussed several topics that the Mekong Fish Network might address, including: which fish species are the most important to study, an overview of current data collection, the most important fisheries questions to answer, and the resources needed to improve fish monitoring in the region.


Some of the meeting outcomes include:

  • Participants identified several important fish species to inform various monitoring objectives, such as food security, conservation, economic importance, invasive species, and basin-wide connectivity.
  • Current research in the region includes: surveys of fisheries landings, taxonomic biodiversity assessments, larval fish surveys, community-based catch monitoring in villages, fish market surveys, and household socioeconomic surveys.
  • Participants agreed that the most important questions for future study pertain to fisheries sustainability, including fisheries trends, species diversity and size composition, fishing intensity, and ecosystem productivity.
  • Other important research topics include the effects of hydrological changes on fish species, as well as the timing of fish spawning migrations and recruitment. Water quality and sedimentation data would be important to measure in conjunction with fisheries data.
  • Many participating institutions have limited technical and financial support.  
  • Strict protocols on data quality and accuracy are needed before sharing or combining data across institutions.

Operation and maintenance of the network are key  concerns for future discussion. Proposed tools that the network can provide include an online database and web portal to facilitate communication and data sharing among organizations. Both the database and web portal are currently under construction, with more updates on their progress to come. Please see the full report for more information on the development of the Mekong Fish Network.  

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IN THE NEWS: Recent stories you might have missed...
Exploring the Mekong's uncertain future

The New York Times Green Blog

Picture a river that has catfish the size of bears. With a giant freshwater stingray that could blanket a king-size bed and weighs as much as a buffalo. Imagine a river that carries so much water during the annual flood that one of its major tributaries would hit this wall of water, stop, and then be pushed backwards, flowing upstream for several months each year into an enormous rainy-season lake that becomes such a factory of fish production that an entire country depends on it for their protein... Read more> 

Cambodia battles to save rare Mekong dolphins


The sight of two dolphins twisting playfully in the murky waters of the Mekong river elicits barely stifled squeals of delight from a boatload of eco-tourists.

But a short distance upstream, river guard Pech Sokhan sighs as he holds up two large, tangled gill nets recently pulled from the murky water-evidence old habits die hard despite a ban on the practice that ensnares many dolphins. "We have to keep educating people every day," said Pech... Read more>

Development looms on the Mekong
New Mandala

KOK WAO, Thailand- Kanlaya Jaiyot wakes at 4 A.M. Opposite the riverbank Kanlaya can make out Laos through the fog; the Mekong serving as a border. In the distance, the vibrations of a gong can be heard, the chanting of monks, and the sharp crow of a rooster. Today is the morning of Loi Krathong, so instead of tending to her fields 41 year old Kanlaya will join her village in the day's festivities. Embraced by the Mekong River... Read more >  

Delta rebound for fish cut short
The Record

Fragile fish species in the Delta returned to near-record lows last year, evidence that a promising bump in 2011 was merely a short-term gain.

The notorious Delta smelt - the 3-inch fish whose dramatic downfall forced water cutbacks to cities and farms during the most recent drought - suffered through its seventh-lowest year on record in 2012, according to data released this week by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife... Read more >  

Turning Christmas trees into salmon habitat

Ecotrope, Oregon Public Broadcasting 

Why are a bunch of sport fishermen collecting used Christmas trees this year? They're planning to give them to coho salmon by placing them in coastal streams, where the trees provide protection from predators and a food source. Conservation volunteers with the Tualatin Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited are the focus of the next story in a series about people thinking outside the box about environmental issues. The group collected 400 Christmas trees last year and proceeded to sink them into a slow-moving section of the Necanicum River... Read more >