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September 17, 2019

FIHSERIES CO-MANAGEMENT IN THE AYEYAWADY REGION

The FAO Project “Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries and Aquaculture Livelihoods in Coastal Mangrove Ecosystems” held at the Ayeya Shwewa Hall in Pathein on the 12th December 2014, Ayeyawady Region, the 17th Fisheries Co-management Workshop, with the participation of regional authorities, regional, district and township fishery officers, the Italian NGO OIKOS, and FAO staff of the “Environmentally Sustainable Food Security Programme”. His Excellency, U San Maung, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Breeding, Ayeyawady Region, made the closing remarks of the workshop.
The author of this article and also the Chief Technical Advisor, explained that the project “Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries and Aquaculture Livelihoods in Coastal Mangrove Ecosystems”, funded by the Government of Italy, is a pilot initiative, that explores the potential and modalities of working with village fishing communities to better manage fisheries activities and resources in their fishing area.  It is expected that the experiences and lessons learned through the pilot project will results in a proper set of policies guidelines in fisheries co-management and that successful approaches would be expanded on a wider scale in future. The Village Fisheries Societies [VFS], supported by their Village Fisheries Management Committees [VFMC] are the drivers for management changes in the freshwater fishery within 20 villages along the main branch of the Bogale River in the Ayeyawady Delta.  The results of the initiative is the transfer of sustainable fishing rights [Tender Lots] to the VFS, composed by small-scale fishers and other members involved in fishery related activities.
Through the Project, the management responsibility for freshwater fisheries has been transferred for the first time in Myanmar, from the Government to these local Village Fisheries Societies (VFS) and twenty villages have the right to manage the resources within their own village boundaries and fisheries management area. More effective management arrangements have been developed to limit fishing pressure, to manage resources effectively and ensure greater compliance by fishers through the village fisheries co-management plan. This innovative approach has therefore enabled local fisher communities to manage the fishery resources, promoting their long-term sustainability and thereby improving livelihoods through the management of Tender Lots in open waters.
Methodology and Intervention
The Village-Based Freshwater Fisheries Co-Management Approach is based on the following principles:
•    meeting the livelihood needs of the fishing village;
•    effective village and stakeholder institutions;
•    establishment of VFS and VFMC, governed by a set of by-laws, for the implementation of a Fisheries Co-management Plan to manage the fishing tender lots in a sustainable manner, creating benefits for the largest number of villagers involved in fisheries;
•    effective partnership arrangements with stakeholders [e.g. regional, district and township fisheries officers, NGO and concerned institutions];
•    participatory processes for consultation and decision making;
•    a policy framework and legal framework;
•    best available information and continuous improvement; and
•    including the ecosystem approach to fisheries co-management.
Village-based freshwater fisheries co-management is a formal partnership arrangement where the stakeholders jointly manage the fisheries resources using local formal/informal traditional/customary practices supported by legislation and the regional and district fisheries government systems. For clarity, the definition of fisheries Co-Management is: ‘a partnership arrangement in which government, the community of local resource users and external agents (e.g. NGOs, academic and research institutions), and other resource stakeholders share the responsibility and authority for the management of a resource which covers various partnership arrangements and degrees of power sharing and integration of local informal/traditional/customary practices and centralized government systems.’
Under the Project’s interventions, the fishing rights became stronger, fisher incomes increased, cost of operations decreased, small fishers selling to highest bidder, reduction of pressure on natural resources through reduction in use of fishing gear and reduction in inequalities, tensions and conflicts.
The benefits derived during the Pilot Project from the application of a Co-management approach include:
•    improve fisheries livelihood;
•    enhance socio-economic life of the small-scale fishers;
•    sustain fisheries resources in line with reducing negative impact
•    reduce pressure on village fisheries resources;
•    less fishing gears used;
•    less cost for stow-net fisher to access Tender Lot areas;
•    greater returns from higher prices for small scale fishers;
•    reduction in inequalities and conflict;
•    building capacity of fishers and stakeholders;
•    higher levels of compliance with fisheries rules [reduced illegal fishing];
•    improved small scale infrastructure [e.g. roads and jetties]; and
•    improved relationship with Township Fisheries Officer.
Conclusion
This is the first time that the management responsibility for Tender Lot fisheries has been shared by a village community in Myanmar and reflects the longer term vision of Department of Fisheries to develop more effective co-management arrangements whereby measures to increase livelihoods and limit fishing pressure, manage resources more effectively and ensure greater compliance can be achieved.
The key outcome of the Project was the move towards sustainability within the village communities. For example:
• Environmental-reduction in the number of stow-nets in each Tender Lot, reduction of overfishing, agreements for reducing net mesh sizes;
• Social-increased cohesion and mutual trust in the communities, fishers empowered and with an active role in the communities; and
•    Economical–immediate return for VFS, increased incomes for the fishers and stability of income to Fisheries Department.
Giuseppe Romalli
Chief Technical Advisor, ESFSP

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