Second International Symposium on the Management of Large Rivers for Fisheries : Sustaining Livelih (LARS2 Second Large R)

Venue: Hotel Le Royale

Location: Phnom Penh, Other

Event Date/Time: Feb 11, 2003 End Date/Time: Feb 14, 2003
Early Registration Date: Oct 31, 2002
Abstract Submission Date: May 31, 2002
Paper Submission Date: Nov 15, 2002
Report as Spam


Large rivers provide substantial social and economic benefits to a significant number of people, particularly in the developing or industrialising regions. Fisheries in these large rivers, and their associated wetlands, provide a source of food, employment and/or income that is crucial to sustaining the livelihoods of multitudes of people, particularly the rural poor. Many of these fisheries are of national economic importance and/or are crucial to local or even regional food security. These benefits remain universally under-valued and are often ignored in management actions that have an impact upon them.

Large rivers and their associated wetlands are among the most endangered ecosystems on earth. They suffer the immediate and long-term impacts of a multitude of human activities including damming, channelization, wetland loss and catchment disturbances which result in degradation in water quantity, quality and the timing of hydrological events. The escalating extraction of water to satisfy an ever-growing need for drinking and for irrigated agriculture aggravates an already critical situation. These effects seriously undermine the viability of river systems and the aquatic life they support. Many large rivers have already passed the crisis point and are now the target for rehabilitation, whilst almost all others are poised on the brink of collapse as functioning ecosystems.

Large rivers support a significant proportion of the earth's aquatic biodiversity. Species richness within some tropical systems surpasses that of marine ecosystems, including coral reefs. Additionally, associated semi-aquatic/terrestrial habitats, such as seasonally flooded forests, are an integral part of river ecosystems and sustaining the water resources is a pre-requisite for sustaining them. Testament to the vulnerability of rivers and associated wetlands, and the urgent need for improved management, is the fact that almost all of the IUCN listed vulnerable or extinct fishes are from freshwaters or, for migratory species, are chiefly vulnerable at the freshwater stage of their life cycle. It is estimated that 20% of the world's freshwater fishes are in danger of extinction or in need of urgent conservation efforts. Some rivers, as the result of mismanagement, have the unfortunate distinction of being the only major ecosystems yet to achieve the status of being termed "biologically dead". Requirements for sustaining biodiversity and fisheries in rivers are integrally linked through a mutual need for improved management of both habitats and exploitation.

Awareness of these problems is stimulating the developed world to shift its attention towards the recreational benefits of rivers and their importance for wildlife. A growing awareness of which is leading to considerable pressure for major rehabilitation programmes, including in some cases, the decommissioning of dams and other structures. Experiences from developed countries can be of significant relevance to improved management of rivers elsewhere.

Rivers and their social, cultural, economic and ecological importance, remain grossly neglected or under valued. Production from inland fisheries is thought to be 2 to 5 times the officially reported value. River fish and fisheries only came under serious scrutiny in the 1970s and the knowledge then available was summarised and synthesised at the International Large River Symposium (LARS) held in Canada in 1985. Since that date, and partly as an output from that initiative, the study of large rivers has escalated. Attention has especially been given to finding ways of mitigating impacts of other users, restoring damaged systems and managing the fisheries in the face of external constraints. The information accrued since the 1980s is still dispersed and there has been no major attempt to update the 1985 synthesis. In view of the importance of large rivers for food production and the current emphasis on the protection of biological diversity world-wide, it is timely that a second international symposium focussing specifically on large rivers be organised. The purpose is to propose a new global synthesis of large river ecology, economics and management options as a guide for the new millennium.

The objectives of the symposium will be to:

provide for people working on the management and development of rivers a forum to review and synthesize the current status of large rivers systems including their ecology, fisheries, environmental impact assessments, multiple uses of resources and associated socio-economic considerations;
raise the political, public and scientific awareness of the importance of river systems, the living aquatic resources they support and the people that depend upon them; and
contribute to better management, conservation and restoration of the living aquatic resources of large rivers.