WWF working towards “Fish for Tomorrow”



Posted on 02 February 2007  | 
Children with a basket full of Mekong freshwater herring. Tonle Sap River, Cambodia.
© WWF-Canon / Zeb HoganEnlarge
February 2nd is World Wetlands Day, and this year’s theme, titled “Fish for Tomorrow”, is focusing on one of the most important values of wetlands - providing fish for both the subsistence needs and economic benefit of local people.

The Mekong River, its tributaries and other associated wetlands, provide some of the most productive fisheries in the world, producing 2% of the world’s annual total catch of marine and freshwater fish. 80% of the Mekong’s human population get the majority of their protein from fish.

In order to ensure we have enough fish to eat tomorrow, we need to properly manage the streams, rivers, deep pools, marshes, lakes, and seasonally flooded forests where they are found, today! WWF is working throughout the Mekong Basin, from the Tibetan Plateau to the South China Sea coast, to support effective management of wetlands that support local livelihoods and provide a number of environmental and economic goods and services.

China
In the thin air of the Tibetan Plateau, 4,000 metres above sea level, WWF is identifying important high altitude wetland areas to develop new conservation initiatives. Further south in China, in the steeply sloping valleys of the Mekong and its tributaries in Yunnan, WWF, with support from the Swedish government, is designing interventions for improved slope management, to reduce erosion and sedimentation caused by poorly constructed roads, as well as inappropriate forms of agriculture and irrigation management.

Thailand
Downstream, in Thailand and Lao PDR, WWF is about to start working with government partners and local communities in Chiang Rai and Bokeo Provinces, for improved management of an important stretch of the river, including conservation of the endangered Mekong giant catfish – the world’s largest freshwater fish. This new project will be launched in April with support from the Aage Jensen Charity Foundation from Denmark.

Lao PDR
Also in Lao PDR, WWF will launch a new EU-funded project in July, for sustainable use of the That Luang Marshes, just outside Vientiane, which are currently threatened by population growth and economic development. The project will raise awareness of the important water purification functions of the marshes, protect them against further encroachment, and find ways to increase their water cleaning capacity, while also meeting the needs of the poor rural communities living around their edge.

Across the river in Thailand, similar work is being conducted by WWF at Beung Kong Long Ramsar Site and Kut Ting Marshes in Nong Khai Province, in a project funded by the Danish government.

In addition to marshlands connected to the Mekong River, WWF is also working on strengthening community fisheries management in most of the major rivers of southern Lao PDR through two other important projects – the ComFish project, and the Xekong River project (supported by the governments of New Zealand and the Netherlands respectively).

Cambodia
In Cambodia, with much support from Germany, WWF is focusing on a “Freshwater Focal Area” of the Mekong between Kratie and Stung Treng Provinces, extending up to and across the Lao border. This includes all the remaining areas of the river where the rare Mekong Irrawaddy dolphin is found, as well as proposed and established Ramsar sites. In the future, work in this area will include management of transboundary dolphin and fisheries issues between the two countries.

Vietnam
In the Mekong Delta’s “Plain of Reeds” in Vietnam, WWF will soon start work in Tram Chim National Park – home of the incredible sarus crane. This is also the most important remaining area of the natural flooded grassland and Melaleuca Forest landscapes, once found throughout the area and now almost all converted to rice paddies in what is know as the “rice-bowl” of Vietnam. Tens of thousands of the poorest, landless people in this area remain dependent upon the still bountiful fisheries supported by the annual Mekong floods. This work will be funded by Coke, as part of a global partnership with WWF US

The benefits of floods
While floods are often thought of as bringing disaster, they are also great providers - almost 80% of Mekong fish species only breed in seasonally flooded areas. Roads act as barriers to flood waters – altering the natural flood pattern and therefore reducing the productivity of fisheries that depend on the floods. WWF, with the Vietnamese and Cambodian governments and other partners, are developing recommendations for new standards for road construction which will ensure that the benefits of natural floods are not lost, while also preventing expensive flood damage to the roads themselves.

Partnering with the “Wetlands Alliance”
WWF is not alone in our efforts, and one of our major new partnerships is the “Wetlands Alliance”. Supported by the Swedish government and working together with the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), the World Fish Centre, and the Coastal Resource Institute (CORIN) of the Prince of Songkhla University, the Alliance will help build capacity at local levels for improved management of wetlands and aquatic resources in nine areas of Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

On World Wetlands Day, celebratory events will be held by WWF and partners near to the Mekong in Vientiane (Lao PDR), Nong Khai (Thailand), and Kratie (Cambodia). We all benefit from sharing the great natural wealth the Mekong provides in many different ways, but this wealth depends on the continued health of the whole system, across international borders – the interconnection of tributary rivers and streams, marshlands, the river itself and the seasonally flooded grasslands and forests it inundates. We all share in the responsibility for taking care of the magical Mekong.

Fore more information, please contact

Robert Mather
Senior Programme Manager
Living Mekong Programme
Email: robert.mather@wwfgreatermekong.org
Children with a basket full of Mekong freshwater herring. Tonle Sap River, Cambodia.
© WWF-Canon / Zeb Hogan Enlarge

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