Trying to manage fisheries and coordinate research in a river that flows through a single country is challenging enough--so imagine the challenges surrounding a river that crosses the borders of six countries with six distinct languages. Such is the case of Southeast Asia's Mekong River, which is home to more than 850 species of fishes that feed an estimated 60 million people, making it one of the most diverse and productive rivers in the world. As the Mekong moves into an uncertain future of regional development and environmental change, coordinated efforts to study and manage its fishes will become all the more imperative.
As part of our international conservation program, FISHBIO has been working in the Mekong region since 2009. FISBHIO staff are currently working to build the Mekong Fish Network (MFN), a platform to improve communication, coordination, and collaboration among researchers in countries across the Lower Mekong Basin, including Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Now, FISHBIO has launched a new website as a tool to serve the Mekong research community. The website (www.mekongfishnetwork.org) serves as a hub for network communication and connects fish scientists and managers to many valuable tools to assist their research.
The MFN website is a direct product of a workshop that FISHBIO staff and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) convened in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in February 2012 to bring together Mekong scientists, government officials, and members of various organizations working in the region. FISHBIO staff developed the website based on feedback from workshop participants about resources that would be most useful to them. The website can be viewed in a variety of languages, and features news stories from across the region, blog posts of network member activities, descriptions and photos of ongoing research projects, a calendar of relevant upcoming meetings and events, and links to recent open-source research publications.
The website also links to the Mekong Fish Network Data Bank, an online data management tool developed in collaboration with the USGS and also launched this month. The data bank is a free resource to help Mekong researchers store, manage, and share their data with collaborators in a secure environment, which is currently a challenge for many scientists in the region because of limited infrastructure and funding for data management. The data bank will support one of the Network's major goals: to implement standardized sampling methods in the various Mekong countries with the aim of achieving cohesive, basin-wide assessments of the fish community. FISHBIO and USGS will continue to develop the main MFN website and data bank to best meet the needs of the Mekong research community.