2. Characteristics of the Utilization and Management of Aquatic Resources in Laos

People in Laos, both male and female and of whatever age, engage in small-scale but diverse conventional fish catching in rivers, swamps, ponds, paddy fields, and sometimes even along the roadsides. Large-scale fishing operations by professional fishermen are limited to particular areas of the country. Places with aquatic resources are communally owned and villages have the usufructuary right to the resources. There are three types of villages in Laos: “river villages” located nearest the water level, on the banks of the river, “flatland villages” just above the riverside villages, and “hill villages” situated on the hills above the flatland villages. These three types of villages typically form a unit in a particular area, through barter, trading and market activities among them. Within the bounds of the unit, people from other villages are given access to the communally-owned fishery resources as long as they follow the local rules. Each village or each area imposes certain restrictions on fishing for a variety of reasons, ranging from conserving aquatic resources to animism and awe of particular animals. These restrictions, as a consequence, are conserving aquatic resources, working as a indigenous method of resources management.


At Nong Me Harn (Widow’s Swamp) in Kengkok, Savannakhet Province, fishing is banned throughout the year. However, any fish that swims out of the swamp can be caught for consumption.


IWATA Akihisa
Changes in the Utilization of Aquatic Resources in Laos

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