Inland Fishery in Myanmar


      Inland capture fisheries provide a valuable contribution to food security in many parts of the developing countries including Myanmar. Union of Myanmar is littoral and largest country in main land in Southeast Asia, comprising a land area of 676,577 sq km, a coastline of nearly 2,832 km, a continental shelf of 228,781 sq km and Exclusive Economic Zone of 486,000 sq km. Inland freshwater bodies cover 8.1 million ha of which 1.3 million ha are permanent; the reminder are seasonally inundated floodplains, with a population of 54 million in 2005. Fish is one of the most main animal protein resources in Myanmar and fish is a rich source of lysine as well as all other essential amino acids, vitamin A, essential fatty acids and calcium which are difficult to secure in non-fish products including many meats.

      Myanmar owes the richness of her freshwater and brackish water fisheries to the extensive big river network system in huge delta region. This kind of favorable condition, natural gift, enables the denizens of the rivers to migrate along practically the whole length of the water course to the sea, a prime important factor in the life span and distribution of brackish water and freshwater fishes. All low lying area within the flood line of the rivers locally known as Inn, leasable fisheries and 0.5 million hectare of swampy delta along 1,760 miles along coastline are serving natural breeding, nurseries and feeding grounds for freshwater and some marine fishes. In this respect, Myanmar is similar to many Southeast Asian countries where emphasis is paid to rice production as crucial element of food security. An inland fishery is significant for Myanmar in terms of providing food security and employment to a large number of fishers and rural dwellers.
      Fisheries are forth most important source of export earning, valued at US$ 317.38 million in 2003 (Department of Fisheries (DoF), 2003) Marine capture fisheries is reported to produce 1060.25 thousand metric ton, freshwater capture fisheries 289.94 thousand metric ton (Department of Fisheries (DoF) estimated of leasable, open and floodplains) and Aquaculture 256.05 thousand metric ton) Although the share from inland fisheries is not high, inland fisheries are considered the most accessible and inexpensive source of protein for most Myanmar people, it is thus important to the socio-economic and rural development of Myanmar.
      The development of the inland fisheries in Myanmar can be traced back hundreds of years, but became more systematic since the promulgation of the Burma Fishery Act in 1905. The department at the time has mandate almost solely to survey and manage inland fisheries resources for revenue.
      Inland fisheries habitats are characterized by annual cycle flood pulse that causes the rivers to flood low lying lands influent and adjacent the river and after a number of months to retreat back into the main river channel. The fisheries have a distinct seasonality where by a distinct river and floodplain component can be observed, depending upon the hydrological conditions. Environments vary from freshwater to full seawater according to flood and tidal conditions (Coates, 2002). Inland fishing in Myanmar is carried out in natural and human-made freshwater bodies of various types from rivers and their tributaries to reservoirs and fishponds. Aquatic resource areas of the river systems within Myanmar encompass a total of 8.2 million ha (FAO, 1996). Their 4 major rivers and 103 reservoirs, 115,687 ha in area that contribute to the production of freshwater fish. These impoundments are situated in different parts of Myanmar and play a key role in the subsistence of income for communities involved. In the past, floodplains were also important inland fisheries habitats but these have almost disappeared due to the construction of dams and other infrastructure developments.
      According to Freshwater Fisheries Law promulgated by the State in 1991, freshwater fisheries means water, pond, course, steam and lake which is of permanent or temporary nature and in which fish live and thrive and which is situated within the inland boundary along the sea coast of Myanmar. This expression also includes a leasable fishery, reserved fishery, fisheries waters in which fishing rights are permitted under a license, reservoirs, waters in and area belong to any Government department, inland tidal places, waters on an island, crocodile and turtle lay their eggs and brackish water. Furthermore, waters on the inland side of the straight line drawn from one extreme end of one bank to the extreme end of other bank of the river mouths and creek mouths contiguous to the sea are noted as freshwater fisheries area.

2. Inland Fisheries

      Inland fishery in Myanmar consists of culture and capture fisheries which is divided into three main categories for management purpose. There are Leasable fisheries, Reserved fisheries and fisheries waters in which fishing rights are granted under a license (open fisheries).
  “Inn” leasable fisheries. These are almost exclusively key fishing grounds on floodplains which are primarily fished through the erection of barrage fences around the lease area with fish collected in various collection pens or traps. The peak season involves capturing fishes migrating off the floodplain at the beginning of river draw-down. Lease holders enjoy exclusive rights to fish the lease area including preventing access by others and a certain degree of environmental management and control. This is referred to locally as the “Inn” fishery. There are currently 3,717 leasable fisheries in Myanmar of which 3,452 are still exploitable. Of these, 1,762 (51%) are located in Ayeyarwaddy Division (the lower floodplains and delta of the river). Leases have been auctioned every year but Department of Fisheries (DoF) is extending the lease period up to 9 years to promote improved long term management. There are no Government owned lease.

      “Open” Fisheries. These are fisheries in all other areas apart from Inn or resaved fisheries including all types of fishing operation. The right to fish in this area is licensed out by Department of Fisheries (DoF). All fishing gears require a license. Some of the larger gears, particularly “Stow net” set in rivers, are allocated by a tender system (“tender fisheries”). Fees are variable between regions according to production and capacity. License fees for smaller-gears are low. Although the policy is for complete coverage of licenses for all gears. It was intimated that licenses tend to be neglected for smaller gears and the system concentrates on those people perceived as fishing for “profit”.
      Officially, all licenses holders have to report their catches, although in practice, this is only likely for the larger leasable fisheries and larger fixed gear fisheries. This is another source of under estimation of the actual status of the production from inland fisheries. The entire fishery is closed during June, July and August (to allow spawning and recruitment). The small-scale fishery occurs year round and is considered technically “illegal” during these months.
      Reserved Fisheries: means fisheries waters in which fishing operations are prohibited from time to time or in which fishing rights are granted subject to stipulations by the Department of Fisheries (DoF), in order to prevent the extinction of fish and to propagate the same.
      Fish caught from inland habitats are multi-species and vary in abundance depending on the productive status of water bodies. In general, tilapia, barbs, snakehead, common carp, carp, carplets, walking catfish, climbing perch, and macrobrachium are the dominant species. This species make up more than 90% of the total capture freshwater fish catch.

Table 1. The production of inland capture fisheries by sectors
(1993-94 to 2002-03)

Leasable Fisheries
Open Fisheries
*Remark: 1st April to 31st March of the next year is fiscal year of Myanmar.

3. Fishing Gear

      Fishing gears used in inland fisheries are traditionally developed from small-scale fishing activities. The most widely used gear includes stationary pots, stow net, lift net, gill net, line, scoop net, bamboo trap and cast net. These gears are quite selective and simple to use. However, the use of fishing gears in public waters has to be permitted by authorities according to the Freshwater Fisheries Law (1991).
      Practically, inland fisheries can fish all year round but the amount caught may vary from season to season. Freshwater fish is abundant during the rainy season from June to September. During this period rivers, wetlands and floodplains are very productive as new water activates spawning. Yearling fish will grow to full size during this season and are the target of fishing effort. Following the rainy season (October to December) water level in most inland habitats start leveling off. This enables fishers to easily access grown fish from rainy season using various fishing gears. Fishing can be done all year round in rivers and inn but fish are caught more readily from (July to September) when the water level is low.

4. Classification of Inland Fishing Gear in Myanmar

      There are many fishing gears employed in catching of Inland Fisheries in Myanmar. They could divide into the following types:
4.1 Gill Net
     4.1.1 Drift gill net [Hmaw pite]                             
     4.1.2 Set gill net [Tar Pite / Htaung Pite]                              
     4.1.3 Trammel net [Thone Htat pite]
4.2 Hook and Line
     4.2.1 Long line [Nga Hmyar tann]
     4.2.2 Hand line [Let Htun]
     4.2.3 Pole and line [Nga Hmyar Tan]
4.3 Trap
     4.3.1 Fish trap [Hmyone]
     4.3.2 Bamboo stake filter trap [Shaw/ Myin Win Sae]
     4.3.3 Stow net [Kyar Pasat]
     4.3.4 Trap [WinKhan Sae]
     4.3.5 Drop door trap [Toke or Maung Dann]
4.4 Surrounding Net
     4.4.1 Big beach seine [Kalar Pite (Thaung Swe Pite Gyi)]
     4.4.2 Small beach seine [Shay To Pite (Thaung Swe Pite)]
     4.4.3 Net fence [Pite Ba Wonn]
4.5 Cast Net
     4.5.1 Cast net [Let Pyit Con]
     4.5.2 Large cast net [Met Con]
4.6 Lift Net
     4.6.1 Portable lift net [Ya Gwin]
     4.6.2 Stick-held dip net [Ya Gwin Gyi]
     4.6.3 Chinese dip net [Ya Gwin Gyi]
4.7 Push Net
     4.7.1 Push net [Yin Tun]
     4.7.2 Push net with bag [Yin Tun Gyi]
4.8 Miscellaneous
     4.8.1 Innle basket [Innle Saung]
     4.8.2 Eel clamp [Nga Mwe Doe Chate]
     4.8.3 Plunge basket or cover pot [Saung]
     4.8.4 Plunge basket [Magyi Tan]
          with tamarind wood scared line
     4.8.5 Bush-bundle basket [Chone Yet Thet]
     4.8.6 Small bag net [Daine wonn]
     4.8.7 Beam trawl [Phot Cut Pike]
     4.8.8 Multi-pronged burbles spear [Hmain / Suu]
     4.8.9 Dolphin

5. Inland fisheries managemen

      Better resource management is urgently needed to sustain inland fisheries resources. However, without good information and statistics for policy guidance and action planning, this can not be achieved.
The following are objectives of the freshwater fisheries;
       o To further develop the fisheries;
       o To prevent the extinction of fish;
       o To safeguard and prevent the destruction of freshwater fisheries waters;
       o To obtain duties fees payable to the state;
       o To manage the fisheries and to take action in accordance with the Law
      Myanmar has continually assessed the abundance, diversity, population structure and distribution of inland fishes. Sampling methods are used at landing port and market samplings to obtain landing volume, species, size and catch composition. Interview and questionnaires are also often used for collecting data in inland fisheries by Department of Fisheries (DoF).

6. Future plan of the inland fisherie

       The Government of Myanmar has a first five years plan for all round development of fisheries sector from 2001-2002. They are separated by five year plans each, via first five year plan, second five year plan, third five year plan, and so on. The expected percentage of production for every five year inland
fisheries is 4%. To fulfill
the expected production, allowing the long leases for sustainable fisheries resources, to avoid the depletion of the ecosystem, secondly releasing the fingerling of fishes to the natural water bodies to better sound balance of fish diversity, and no man can not catch fish and prawn in spawning season as well. Thirdly, to conserve the fisheries resources the government introduced the fisher participatory approach co-management system.
       Firstly according to the condition of the lease, the leasees have to release the fish seed 1 to 5% in value from the fees of the leases for sustainable inland fisheries resources.
       For those who cultured in the Leaseable fisheries, they have to buy the fish seeds from government owned hatcheries in value of 30% of the fees of their leases. And they have to replenish that fish seeds after reaching the size 4-5 inches in the pan or cage.(3-4 months)
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