WorldFish is working with the Myanmar Government and other partners to create a policy environment to improve fisheries management and capture more economic, social and environmental benefits for the long term. The WorldFish integrated research and development program is endorsed by the government and seeks to unlock the potential for growth in aquaculture, for example in the many household ponds in the Ayeyarwady Delta, Central Dry Zone, Shan State and Sagaing Region. Scaling-up smallholder aquaculture can bring benefits such as better incomes, nutrition and health.
This chapter presents the current state of knowledge on “Inn” fisheries, an important fisheries management regime in Myanmar. The presentation made is based on a comprehensive review of literature, some original research data and the authors’ extended combined experiences working in Myanmar. The chapter starts by revisiting the origin of the “Inn” system, shedding light on the chain of events that led to its generalization under the British occupation.
Known as MYFish 2, the Improving Fishery Management in Support of Better Governance of Myanmar’s Inland and Delta Fisheries project is funded by the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). It builds on the results of a previous ACIAR-funded project, Improving Research and Development of Myanmar’s Inland and Coastal Fisheries (known as MYFish 1) which focused on institutional capacity building and supported an improved characterization of fisheries management systems in Myanmar.
The objective of this project is to design a cost-effective, scientifically researched and participatory “incentive-based” hilsa fishery management mechanism for Myanmar. The project will employ the ecosystem-based approach (EbA) in its information gathering, analysis, and decision-making and management objectives.
- Understanding the biology and ecology of the hilsa fishery to determine a no-take season and zone for hilsa fishing.
- Understanding the complex socioeconomics of hilsa fishing: conduct a large-scale household questionnaire survey to map livelihood options in fisher communities affected by fishing restrictions and determine the level of incentive packages required to offset the short-term cost (opportunity cost) of abiding by fishing regulations.
- Making a business case for investment in hilsa management: to make a compelling business case as to why the government and the private sector should make sufficient investments to restore the fishery, we will estimate the economic value of the hilsa fishery.
- Developing a sustainable financing mechanism: to ensure fishers do not return to unsustainable practices.
- Transboundary learning: hilsa is a resource shared between Myanmar and Bangladesh, making transboundary learning and cooperation crucial.
Rice and fish are key elements of the diet and major agricultural production sectors in Myanmar. Rice-fish systems (RFSs) encompass a spectrum of farming and fishing practices, from traditional capture of fish in rice-dominated landscapes through to controlled farming of fish in rice fields. Rice farming covers approximately 8 million ha and involves more than 5 million rural households. Myanmar governments of the recent past favored “command and control” based policies that discouraged rice farmers from diversification and making production decisions based on market demand. Such policies have constrained crop- and land-use diversity, as well as opportunities for poverty reduction. Recent policy shifts are now presenting a window of opportunity for developing and implementing diversified and productive rice-fish systems. Such developments would contribute to overarching policy goals of the government for poverty reduction, addressing under-nutrition and rural development. The overall aim of the project is to improve the productivity and profitability of rice-fish systems in Myanmar. The project will benefit small-scale rice farming households, and fishers, by diversifying production in rice-based farming systems and landscapes, enhancing resilience of rice-based farming systems and delivering increased farmer incomes, improved food and nutrition security and enhanced gender equity.
In Myanmar, the fast-growing aquaculture sector has huge potential to improve the lives of rural households, which make up 70 percent of the population and depend largely on low-yielding agriculture for their livelihoods (FAO 2015).
In Myanmar, fish is an important part of the diet.
Small-scale capture fisheries—where fishers operating from the shore or small fishing vessels use simple methods to catch fish from inland or coastal waters—are an often irreplaceable source of nutrition and income in the developing world. Ensuring the sustainability of these fisheries will require coordinated, multi-scale and research-backed governance of ocean and inland aquatic systems that balance the needs and interests of all users.