Since 2013, FFI has been conducting fish and other aquatic surveys in collaboration with the relevant government departments and local universities. The focus has been on identifying endemic and threatened fish species and key freshwater biodiversity sites in the Upper Irrawaddy basin, and piloting community-based fish conservation. More than ten potentially new fish species have been identified. In collaboration with the Fisheries Department and local communities, four new community-managed fish conservation areas have been established in the Indawgyi Lake basin and three new sites in the Mali Hka sub-basin. The Mali Hka and the N’mai Hka are the two tributaries that originate in the eastern Himalayas and form the Irrawaddy river. Additional fish conservation sites are currently under development in the May Hka sub-basin.
FFI also participated in the World Bank assessment of the state of the Irrawaddy basin. We led the biodiversity component, documenting all currently available knowledge about biodiversity and threats and identified key biodiversity areas for conservation.
We also held a high-profile national workshop on the Policies and Practices for Community-based Fisheries and Fish Conservation to identify how to develop laws and regulations relevant to community activities in fish conservation. Initial results illustrate the potential for achieving the complementary goals of maintaining fish biodiversity and local community livelihoods. The project will continue to build on this experience of collaborative approaches among government departments and local communities.