Improving Research and Development of Myanmar's Inland and Coastal Fisheries

Myanmar lies between Bangladesh and Thailand on the Bay of Bengal and is the largest country in Southeast Asia. The tropical nation has an impressive coastline that forms a quarter of its total perimeter, stretching almost 2000 kilometers along the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea. Its inland waterways are equally impressive. The Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy), Salween, and Sittaung rivers carve paths from north to south through the country’s numerous mountain ranges and nourish fertile plains in the valleys. The WorldFish-led project –Improving Research and Development of Myanmar's Inland and Coastal Fisheries (MYFish) aims to ensure that Myanmar’s aquatic systems are as productive as they can be, by building capacity in research and development in the fisheries and aquaculture sector across the country’s varied geography.
The four-year project, funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and AusAID Asia Division, establishes a partnership between WorldFish and four local Myanmar agencies and institutions: the Department of Fisheries (DoF) under the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, the Myanmar Fisheries Federation (MFF), Yangon University, and the Food Security Working Group (FSWG).
The project is exploring fisheries and aquaculture operations in three distinct ecological zones, gaining insight into current practices and developing strategies for enhancing the sector in the future. In the Southern Ayeyarwady Delta, seasonal changes in salinity dictate which agricultural crops are grown and how coastal communities tap into the important coastal fisheries. Upstream, in the Northern Ayeyarwady Delta, conditions favor freshwater species and are perfect for small-scale aquaculture operations. Unlike the wetter delta regions, the Central Dry Zone is a semi-arid region that is prone to chronic water shortages in the dry season, and fishing operations are uncommon. The project is taking a four-pronged approach to capacity building across these zones.
Characterizing Myanmar’s Fishery
The first objective of the project is to conduct a thorough review of current fisheries practices in the Ayeyarwady Delta and Central Dry Zone. By examining the types of fisheries and aquaculture production systems in these areas, the project is gaining insight into the technical capacity of the sector, how productive and diverse these operations are, and how the fishery is currently managed and sustained.  Working directly with Department of Fisheries and fishing communities, the project is generating information about how much fisheries contribute to rural food security and livelihoods especially among women and children.
Ayeyarwady Delta
The Ayeyarwady Delta has the potential to be as productive as the Mekong Delta. However pressures are now being exerted on fish stocks and the natural resources that support production in the Delta and there are concerns that current fish production, consumption and export earnings levels may become difficult to maintain. Anecdotal information from fisher communities also suggests that fish catches have yet to return to pre-Cyclone Nargis, (2008) levels. The project will initiate a number of studies that will test this and explore the extent of this trend.
Central Dry Zone
In contrast to the Ayeyarwady Delta, the Central Dry Zone has fewer fishery opportunities, although fish production in the region has the potential to alleviate malnutrition for many. The project is assessing how to best develop the fisheries sector in the Central Dry Zone. The project is investigating what natural resources are available to local communities, and how these resources might be harnessed for fisheries activities. A participatory mode of research is ensuring that the social, cultural and economic circumstances of people living in the Central Dry Zone are all being considered.
Testing Improvements to Myanmar Fisheries
The second objective of the project is to identify and test viable options for improving the fisheries operations in Myanmar. Pilot interventions to test proposed fisheries improvements are providing the evidence needed to make informed decisions about how best to develop Myanmar’s fisheries in the future.  
Enhancing Research and Development
The ability of the fisheries sector in Myanmar to continue growing will depend upon high quality research directing intelligent development and resource management. The third and final objective of the project is to bolster the capacity of Myanmar’s Government, its private sector, and development organizations operating in Myanmar to conduct meaningful research in the sector. WorldFish brings a wealth of experience in fisheries development in other countries in Asia, including Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangladesh. Together with the DoF, FSWG, Yangon University and MFF, the project is establishing the Fishery Research and Development Network to help local organizations to tap into WorldFish expertise. By training key personnel in research design, implementation, methodology, data analysis, management and reporting, the project is developing the capacity for these organizations to manage fisheries research and research in development programs in Myanmar.
Source: developing capacity in Myanmar’s fisheries