Financial support from Europe is helping the authorities in Myanmar to restore and then sustainably develop the Southeast Asian nation’s aquaculture sector.
Myanmar Sustainable Aquaculture Program (MYSAP) has been officially launched by the Department of Fisheries, with the aims to improve the country’s food security and individuals’ nutritional standards, and to create jobs and livelihoods for rural people.
Funding of EUR22.25 million (US$27.8 million) has been provided for MYSAP by the European Union and the German government, reports Mizzima.
Myanmar’s aquaculture sector was hit hard by a cyclone in 2008, and by overfishing, according to Director General of the Department of Fisheries, U Khin Maung Maw.
Among the first actions of MYSAP was a consultation process ahead of the creation of a National Aquaculture Development Plan (NADP) similar to those used successfully to raise aquaculture production and exports in neighboring Thailand, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia, said the official. Stakeholders from civil society and the private sector, as well as government agencies, have already given their input to the NADP on a wide range of topics from the improvement of the aquaculture value chain and environmental impacts, through policy and governance, to societal issues.
In 2017, Myanmar’s agriculture ministry joined with nonprofit research organization WorldFish and the International Rice Research Institute to improve the country’s rice-fish systems.
Fish farming sees rapid growth
Contrary to some perceptions, fish farming in Myanmar has undergone rapid growth in recent years, and is already supporting higher incomes, job opportunities, nutrition and health of rural people, according to a 2015 report by the Centre for Economic and Social Development (CESD), Michigan State University, and the International Food Policy Research Institute, and funded by USAID and other organizations.
The report highlights a 250 percent increase in freshwater fish production over the previous decade from farms in the Irrawaddy Delta region, which account for 90 percent of the country’s output of farmed fish. It also cited the growth in aquaculture-related businesses in the region, such as feed milling.
Sustainability in question
In 2016, the sustainability of this growth was questioned in Myanmar Times on several levels. First, the Delta farmers had converted rice paddies or rainwater collection areas into fish ponds, which is contrary to regulations. Second, 70 percent of total production was from just one species — the rohu, an indigenous carp. Third, a handful of large producers accounted for more than half of total production, and farms were in close proximity to one another in the Delta.
Rohu exports were already in decline, according to the secretary general of the Myanmar Fisheries Federation. By 2015, the volume had fallen from 90,000 metric tons (mt) at its peak to 64,000 mt.
A report by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization FAO in 2012 put Myanmar’s total aquaculture output at 885,200 mt, of which almost 827,000 mt was inland production, and 58,200 mt from the seas. As well as rohu, other carp, pangasius, tilapia, and grouper were widely cultured fish species. Tiger shrimp farms had been badly damaged by the 2008 cyclone.