Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fisheries stakeholders consider closing grounds to protect stocks

Fishing boats drift in the current at a jetty in Yangon. The Myanmar Times ArchiveFishing boats drift in the current at a jetty in Yangon. The Myanmar Times Archive

The Myanmar Fisheries Federation last week agreed to do a survey of important fishing grounds to determine whether they need to be closed to recover, sources said.

The decision to commission a survey of fishing grounds in Yangon and Ayeyarwady regions and Rakhine and Mon states, was made during a special seminar that brought together stakeholders in the fishing industry on July 29, said people who attended the meeting.

It was suggested by a Pyapon Fisheries Federation member that some fishing grounds should be closed from June, July and August to allow stocks to recover.

“We agreed that we need to consider closing fishing grounds to preserve stocks,” said U Maung Maung Soe, chairman of the Myanmar Fish Farmers Association.

He added that the last survey of fishing stocks was undertaken in 2006 by Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Centre and the information that is acquired is no longer relevant.

“We need to consider what fisheries resources we have left in Myanmar waters,” he said. “We need to know detailed information about our resources before we decide whether we should close fisheries because fish farmers are already facing a hostile market and if we close fishing grounds it might worsen the market.”

U Khin Maung Win, a senior supervisor at MFF, said in the past that marine fishing boats could complete voyages in three days and return with full holds but now many returned from trips with catches that did not even pay for the fuel.

“The situation is dire and we need to protect our resources for the future,” he said.

U Win Kyaing, general secretary of the Myanmar Fisheries Federation, said the fisheries sector was a natural resource that needs to be carefully maintained.

“We may need to close fishing grounds to let stocks recover but this will affect fisheries businesses that depend on these stocks,” he said

Myanmar earned nearly US$654 million from exporting nearly 38700 tonnes of fisheries products last year, said U Win Kyaing, general secretary of the Myanmar Fisheries Federation.

“If we close fishing grounds fishermen will lose their livelihoods. There are more 400 fishing boats, and 3000 large rafts that employ 20,000 workers in Ayeyarwady Region’s Pyapon township, who in turn support 80,000 people.

“If we close the grounds these people will have no income,” said U Than Gyaung, spokesperson for the Pyapon township Fisheries Federation.

He requested fisheries authorities to only close designated areas and not bar all fishing for the three months of June, July and August.

In Yangon’s fish markets freshwater fish are selling for K1500 to K3000 a viss (1.6 kilograms or 3.6 pounds), while saltwater fish are selling for K700 to K800 a viss, so customers buy the cheaper fish, said U Kyaw Min, a representative of shopkeepers at Pazundaung Market.

“People like us work in Yangon’s fish markets and live hand-to-mouth by selling fish. If we can no longer buy fish from the sea to sell we won’t have any income,” he said.