Study shows Myanmar’s fisheries management ineffective

Published on
March 31, 2021

A recent paper that represented the first in-depth study of Myanmar’s southern offshore fisheries in 60 years has found that between 2009 to 2018, Myanmar’s fisheries management scheme was ineffective and resulted in a drop in catch across the five gear types studied.

The paper – authored by Gilles Hosch of DIATOM Consulting, Ben Belton of Michigan State University, and Gareth Johnstone of WorldFish – analyzed over 26,000 logbook records for five gear types commonly used in the region. The gear types – fish and crab traps, squid and purse seines, and demersal trawls – all saw drops in catch per unit effort (CPUE) between 27 percent and 64 percent over the period.

“The basic fishery management measures introduced from 2012 onwards were shown to significantly modulate total fishing pressure across several gear types within years, but their inconsistent implementation failed to significantly reduce fishing pressure across the entire study period,” the paper said.

The paper also found that fishery-dependent data was often inconsistent, and that the national marine fishery output was often far lower than the officially reported figure. The official reporting by the country’s government, which in 2017-2018 reported the catch as 3.16 million metric tons – is three times the annual catch estimated and published by the FAO in 2016.

“Hosch estimated that the 2013-2014 national marine fishery output was less than half the officially reported figure of more than 2.7 million tons, based on fishery-dependent data sampled across the country, and including an earlier version of the dataset underpinning this study,” the paper said.

Surveys, according to the paper, indicated the biomass reduction of small pelagics from 1980 to 2013 was 89 percent, and species compositions indicated that shorter-lived species were replacing longer-lived species. In commercially important species groups, the paper said, catch rates diminished by up to 95 percent.

The trends, the report said, result from the intensification of fishing effort over the period.

“This pattern is similar to that in most other Southeast Asian countries, but occurred later in Myanmar, following military government promotion of the expansion of the domestic fleet and joint ventures with foreign fishing enterprises during the late 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, to generate rents and foreign exchange earnings,” it said.

The paper said the conclusion of the research is that consistent data collection and analysis will serve “as foundation for future improvements in management effectiveness.”

For now, though, current data indicates Myanmar’s fisheries may “continue to teeter on a cliff’s edge.”

“The bottoming out of CPUE trends before collapses occur in multi-gear, multi-species fisheries have been documented in the past,” the report said. “Further trophic cascades, species substitutions and commercial extinctions of valuable stocks may occur – further diminishing the overall economic value of the sector.”  

Photo courtesy of Rich Carey/Shutterstock

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