Overview Objectives

The catchments of the Murray-Darling Basin and the Mekong drain similar areas. Both systems contain unique fish communities that are important sources of biodiversity, food security and recreational opportunities. But irrigation development in both Australia and Lao PDR has led to construction of numerous water regulation devices that limit migratory fish movement, and in many areas this has led to severe declines in fish production. Previous research in Australia and Lao PDR has demonstrated that there are fish-passage technologies with the potential to aid the movement of migratory fish past low-level (less than 6-metre) barriers. Fisheries agencies in both countries are thus interested in increasing capacity to design, manage and operate fish passage facilities on new and existing low-level water control structures. This project will identify and prioritise water infrastructure that creates migration barriers to lateral fish migrations between the Mekong River, its tributaries and floodplain habitat and undertake research to determine the effectiveness of low-cost fishways for widespread application at floodplain barriers in the lower Mekong basin. The researchers will also quantify the biological, ecological and socio-economic benefits of floodplain rehabilitation using fish passage technology to increase awareness and uptake of low-cost mitigation measures.

Progress Reports (Year 1, 2, 3 etc)

1.1 Background
The Murray-Darling Basin and the Mekong are two of the world’s major catchment systems. They drain similar areas, are both over 4,000km in total length and support over 60 million people combined. Both systems contain unique fish communities which are importance sources of biodiversity, food security and recreational opportunities. The Murray-Darling Basin has an active recreational fishery estimated to be worth between $AUD750K - 1,000K annually. The current annual production from the capture fishery in the LMB is about two million tonnes, which is approximately 2% of the total world marine and freshwater catch with a first-sale value between US$2,000-4,000 million per year.
Irrigation development in Australia and Lao P.D.R. has led to construction of numerous water regulation devices (over 10,000 in both countries) which limit migratory fish movement. Movements of fish (and other aquatic animals) between rivers and floodplains is subsequently restricted, or may be entirely prevented, and this has led to severe declines in fish production in many areas. Fisheries agencies in both countries are interested in increasing capacity to design manage and operate fish passage facilities on new and existing low-level water control structures in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of fish resources in each country.
This project seeks to undertake research and development activities that provide quantifiable evidence that fishway construction provides positive benefits floodplain fish species in the Lower Mekong and Murray-Darling Basins. A project team has been assembled which comprises scientists from New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, National University of Laos and Living Aquatic Resources Research Centre.
1.2 Inception Activities
The project has had an extended inception phase with has seen the initiation of three main objectives.
1.2.1 Analyse and prioritise infrastructure causing fish migration barriers to lateral migrations between the Mekong River and floodplain habitat
A preliminary prioritisation of all fish migration barriers in the Xe Champone catchment was completed. The purpose of this component was to provide a detailed list of potential rehabilitation works for consideration by donor bodies looking to identify areas of future investment. The work required an initial desktop phase which was followed by field validation of actual barriers using GIS-based technology. The team collected a large dataset which is currently undergoing detailed analysis and prioritisation. This will be reported and presented to donor bodies in early 2012.
1.2.2 Research the effectiveness of low-costs fishways for widespread application at floodplain barriers in the lower Mekong basin and the Murray-Darling Basin
The project team successfully progressed the construction and installation of an experimental fishway unit at a new experimental site in Savannakhet province. The unit was constructed under the supervision of Lao PDR and Australian scientists but was constructed and installed by local labour. Work was completed in late May 2011 and Australian scientists have now arrived in Lao PDR to perform field experiments during the Lao wet season (May-August 2011).
1.1.1 Quantify the biological, ecological and socio-economic benefits of floodplain rehabilitation using fish passage technology to mitigate impacts
A detailed socio-economic survey design workshop was held at Charles Sturt University in March 2011. The outcome of the workshop was the preparation of a draft survey instrument due to be piloted with villages in Bolikhamsay province in June 2011. The team also planned a detailed training schedule for university students who will be engaged to undertake the surveys. Surveys are currently being translated into local language for implementation.
1.2 Overall progress
So far the project is on-schedule and tracking to meet all scheduled objectives. No major problems have arisen and the project team have formed a strong collaboration. The project has attracted media and government interest in both Lao PDR and Australia. Outputs due for publication in the international literature are also expected to increase the project profile lead to scientific impacts in other tropical systems.

1.1 Background
The Murray-Darling Basin and the Mekong are two of the world’s major catchment systems. They drain similar areas, are both over 4,000km in total length and support over 60 million people combined. Both systems contain unique fish communities which are importance sources of biodiversity, food security and recreational opportunities. The Murray-Darling Basin has an active recreational fishery estimated to be worth between $AUD750K - 1,000K annually. The current annual production from the capture fishery in the LMB is about two million tonnes, which is approximately 2% of the total world marine and freshwater catch with a first-sale value between US$2,000-4,000 million per year.
Irrigation development in Australia and Lao P.D.R. has led to construction of numerous water regulation devices (over 10,000 in both countries) which limit migratory fish movement. Movements of fish (and other aquatic animals) between rivers and floodplains is subsequently restricted, or may be entirely prevented, and this has led to severe declines in fish production in many areas. Fisheries agencies in both countries are interested in increasing capacity to design manage and operate fish passage facilities on new and existing low-level water control structures in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of fish resources in each country.
This project seeks to undertake research and development activities that provide quantifiable evidence that fishway construction provides positive benefits floodplain fish species in the Lower Mekong and Murray-Darling Basins. A project team has been assembled which comprises scientists from New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, National University of Laos and Living Aquatic Resources Research Centre.
1.2 Inception Activities
The project has had an extended inception phase with has seen the initiation of three main objectives.
1.2.1 Analyse and prioritise infrastructure causing fish migration barriers to lateral migrations between the Mekong River and floodplain habitat
A preliminary prioritisation of all fish migration barriers in the Xe Champone and Xe Bang Hieng catchment was completed. The purpose of this component was to provide a detailed list of potential rehabilitation works for consideration by donor bodies looking to identify areas of future investment. The work required an initial desktop phase which was followed by field validation of actual barriers using GIS-based technology. The team collected a large dataset which is currently undergoing detailed analysis and prioritisation. We identified over 3,000 barriers to fish migration in the two catchments and presented these results to a project progress meeting in Vientiane (January 2012). The work was very widely received and is presently being considered by the Mekong River Commission for adoption to the entire catchment in all riparian countries. The project team has been asked to assist with a framework development which is currently being prepared by the MRC Fisheries Programme.
1.2.2 Research the effectiveness of low-costs fishways for widespread application at floodplain barriers in the lower Mekong basin and the Murray-Darling Basin
The project team successfully progressed the construction and installation of an experimental fishway unit at a new experimental site in Savannakhet province. The unit was constructed under the supervision of Lao PDR and Australian scientists but was constructed and installed by local labour. Work was completed in late May 2011 and Australian scientists performed field experiments during the Lao wet season (May-August 2011). Unfortunately the wet season arrived late and results on fishway success were inconclusive.
The project team subsequently re-established the experimental fishway site at Pak Peung (Central Lao) and have re-commended experiments. Initial results have been extremely promising with the team averaging catches of 200 fish per hour from up to 20 species per replicate. Work will continue well into the wet season and results will be analysed and presented upon completion.
1.2.3 Quantify the biological, ecological and socio-economic benefits of floodplain rehabilitation using fish passage technology to mitigate impacts

A detailed socio-economic survey was facilitated by Charles Sturt University and National University of Lao in September 2011. The team also planned a detailed training schedule for university students who will be engaged to undertake the surveys. Surveys were translated into local language for implementation and preliminary results were presented at a national fishway workshop.
1.3 Overall progress
So far the project is on-schedule and tracking to meet all scheduled objectives. No major problems have arisen and the project team have formed a strong collaboration. The project has attracted media and government interest in both Lao PDR and Australia. Outputs due for publication in the international literature are also expected to increase the project profile lead to scientific impacts in other tropical systems.

Analyse and prioritise infrastructure causing fish migration barriers to lateral migrations between the Mekong River and floodplain habitat
Detailed Mapping of fish migration barriers in the Xe Bang Hieng, Xe Champone and Nam Ngum catchments have been completed (Figure 1; Figure 2; Figure 3). Reports have also been produced outlining the prioritisation of barriers within the Xe Bang Hieng and Xe Champhone and the rehabilitation options available for the highest priority barriers. The purpose of this component is to provide a detailed list of potential rehabilitation works for consideration by donor bodies looking to identify areas of future investment. The top three barriers identified for rehabilitation works within the Xe Champone catchment have now been finalised (Figure 4, Figure 5 and Figure 6). The work required an initial desktop phase which was followed by field validation of actual barriers using GIS-based technology. The team collected a large dataset which is currently undergoing detailed analysis and prioritisation. We identified over 4,000 barriers to fish migration in the three catchments. The work has been very widely received as The World Bank and Mekong River Commission have funded extensions of the projects barrier mapping methods to other catchments including the Xe Bang Fei (Laos) and Stung Chinut (Cambodia). The project team has been asked to assist with a framework development which is currently being prepared by the MRC Fisheries Programme.
The World Bank have progressed this via direct contract to an external provider with the objective of generating a list of potential sites for development projects. The list will be used as a guide for investment. This is a direct result of initial mapping work conducted from this project.
Research the effectiveness of low-costs fishways for widespread application at floodplain barriers in the lower Mekong basin and the Murray-Darling Basin
During the 2013 wet season from May to July both Lao and Australian project staff assessed the effectiveness of the first permanent demonstration fishway constructed at Pak Peung wetland regulator (Figure 7; Figure 8; Figure 9). Diurnal sampling was conducted with a total of 43 days completed. The second round of fishway assessment will take place during the 2014 wet season from May to July. The 2014 fishway assessment will allow a considerable amount of time for fish to swim freely into the wetland. It is important that this occurs so the positive outcomes of the demonstration fishway can be realised through future socio-economic surveys. Results from both 2013 and 2014 fishway assessments will be prepared as both a technical report and scientific manuscript and used to justify the construction of other fishways throughout the Lower Mekong Basin.
Quantify the biological, ecological and socio-economic benefits of floodplain rehabilitation using fish passage technology to mitigate impacts
The socio-economic baseline survey results from 2011 were combined with the additional 2012 results and presented at the annual project meeting in Vientiane, August 2013 (Figure 10). No socio-economic surveys were conducted in 2013. The next socio-economic survey will be conducted in November 2014 and will be facilitated by Charles Sturt University, LARReC and NUOL staff and students. The overall benefits arising from the socio-economic work will be to track villager perception to the overall benefits from fishway construction. The work will demonstrate that species have recolonised the wetland, whether the villagers see the project as successful and whether livelihoods have improved as a direct result of fishway construction.
Overall progress
The project is on-schedule to be completed within the original timeframe meeting all planned objectives, activities and outcomes. No major problems have arisen and the project team have formed a strong collaboration. The project has attracted media and government interest in both Lao PDR and Australia. We have had the opportunity to present the project at international conferences, to high level government officials, to NGO meetings and via various organised workshops. Outputs due for publication in the international literature are also expected to increase the project profile leading to scientific impacts in other tropical systems.

Project ID
FIS/2009/041
Project Country
Inactive project countries
Commissioned Organisation
Industry & Investment NSW, Australia
Project Leader
Dr Lee Baumgartner
Email
lbaumgartner@csu.edu.au
Phone
61 427 070 056 mob
Fax
61 26059 7531
Collaborating Institutions
Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Australia
National University of Laos, Laos
Living Aquatic Resources Research Centre, Laos
Project Budget
$1,837,834.00
Start Date
01/10/2010
Finish Date
30/09/2015
ACIAR Research Program Manager
Dr Chris Barlow