In many floodplain fisheries, yields are declining, as a combined result of anthropogenic modifications to hydrology and natural wetland habitats which block migration pathways and disturb or destroy fish breeding areas, subsequent recruitment reductions and overfishing. In an environment that provides important livelihoods for millions of people worldwide, this has prompted much attention from governments, international donors and NGO's. There are a variety of potential solutions, but the release of seed fish (primarily species of carp) onto floodplains is one that has been applied most extensively.
However, there is a demand for such enhancement programmes that address the wider issues of resource management, not just technical aspects of seed fish production and stocking, but sustainability and maximization of pro-poor impacts to target beneficiaries.
This desk-based project evaluated a number of issues relating to stock enhancement programmes by reviewing experience gained during large-scale floodplain stock enhancement projects from Bangladesh, reservoir stocking projects from Asia and a habitat restoration project from Bangladesh.
The project aimed to identify key issues that should be taken into account in the design of stock enhancement programmes, such as which water bodies to stock; how to stock; where and by whom seed fish should be reared; fishery management objectives; enforcement; costs; roles of government, NGOs, fishers and communities; monitoring strategies and impact assessment. It was not designed to provide a generic package of measures that should be adopted on all stocking projects, but rather an adaptive framework for context (e.g. bio-physical, social and institutional) dependent strategies. Stock enhancement is considered within a wider context of 'resource management' which then raises issues such as the nature of the resource, its users and managers.
The project produced a technical review of all aspects of fingerling production, stocking procedures and their overall impact based on Third Fisheries, Oxbow Lakes, IDA West Bengal Programme and other projects concerned with stock enhancement in the region.
Criteria were determined for monitoring and evaluating socio-economic impacts of stocking, and distribution of ensuing benefits. Detailed strategies for the utilisation of high and low value species in subsequent stages of the programme manager's stock enhancement research initiatives were also developed.
Guidelines for stock enhancement in South Asia region were produced which contributed to the FAO Fisheries Technical Paper 384/1&2 'Management Guidelines for Asian Floodplain Fisheries'.