Laos releases millions of fish to ensure food security

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN): Vientiane plans to release an additional two million fish back into the river to meet the government’s goal of releasing 58 million fish this year to ensure food security.

Director of Vientiane Agriculture and Forestry Department, Dr Lasay Nouanthasing said that between 1994 and 2020, over 30 million fingerlings had been released throughout the municipality, and another 2 million would be released later this year.

He was speaking on Tuesday (July 13) at the fish releasing ceremonies held at Nongkhamsen wetland to mark National Aquatic and Wildlife Day which was witnessed by the Deputy Minister for Agriculture and Forestry, Dr Bounkhouang Khambounheuang.

Releasing 250, 000 fish fingerlings into the Nongkhamsen will bolster efforts to conserve aquatic resources.

Ounkeng Phommasean, who was elected as the chairman of the wetland management committee, which represents the six villages surrounding Nongkhamsen, initiated the proceedings by highlighting the importance of this 86-hectare reserve, located 20km east of Vientiane.

“Particularly in the dry season, ” he said, “1, 779 households from these six villages around the wetland use the area to gather fish and vegetables for local consumption, while others graze cattle on the fertile grass. This motivates the majority of the people to protect the biodiversity of this wetland for future generations.”

“Nongkhamsen is also an important area for waterbirds. However, the wetland’s future is not bright due to overfishing, the pumping of groundwater for agriculture, and the seepage of sewerage, all of which is damaging its conservation values.”

So far, the biodiversity values of Nongkhamsen have been recognised by the World Wildlife Fund and other international agencies, who have supported the surrounding villages to develop their own management regulations with the support of local officials and are currently preparing to construct a green education centre with walking and cycle trails which will benefit both visitors and local residents.

In 2020, the country released a total of 55, 000, 000 fish and, this year, the government plans to release a total of 58, 000, 000 fish to boost production of meat, eggs, and fish to equal at least 577, 000 tonnes by 2025, according to the Ministry for Agriculture and Forestry These will guarantee at least 73 kg of meat yearly.

According to the International Mekong Commission and the Lao PDR Researcher Institute, the country has more than 481 species of natural fish, 37 species of amphibians, 7 species of crabs, and 10 species of shrimp, of which, 24 species of fish have the potential to be nourished for commercialisation.

Laos produces 167, 922 tonnes of natural fish per year and 40, 581 tonnes of other aquatic animals per year. They are valued at US$ 150 million per year.- Vientiane Times/Asia News Network

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