Following a fishery legislation installed in 2009, which bans the use of traps and tools that can severely harm fish stocks, authorities in Khong district, Champassak province have recently destroyed hundreds of fish traps along the Mekong River, and the fisherman working upstream are reaping the benefits.
Over 400 fish traps, particularly “lee” traps, or basket-type traps constructed from wood and bamboo, have been destroyed by the provincial committee along certain channels downstream of the river.
Used in the early wet season, lee traps are traditional traps that catch fish migrating downstream and are generally built during the dry season, only to be washed out by the heavy rains later in the wet season.
Fishermen who utilize lee traps to ambush schools of fish have been known to catch over 10 tonnes, earning between 30 and 40 million kip a year. This not only gives them an unfair advantage over local fisherman using smaller tools but also risks overfishing, causing fish stocks to fall below acceptable levels.
A fishery consultant for Don Sahong hydropower plant, Mr Somphone Phommanivon stated, “There are many fishermen upstream that are now very happy to be catching fish after over 430 fish traps and other tools have been removed from seven channels downstream while we’ve also improved the channels to aid fish going upstream.”
“We currently have cleared eight channels to make way for fish going upstream and we are still continuing discovering new ways to do so, creating a more sustainable flow of fish which many local residents can share the benefit of,” he added.
Khong district’s Thakhor Village Chief stated that due to the abundance of fish being caught by local fishermen, fishmongers have been able to market the fish at a low 10,000kip per kilo, while fisherman in other villages upstream are also catching plenty of fish to go around.
In 2000, over 400 lee fish traps and other tools were utilized, allowing fishermen to catch between 1.5 to 20 tonnes per trap, therefore prohibiting the use of traps is necessary in order to sustain the increasing number of fish in the Mekong.
The Don Sahong hydropower plant began construction in 2016 and is scheduled to be completed by 2019, on one channel of the Mekong River near Khone Falls in Khong district.