Improving food security in the Lower Mekong Basin

Fisherman in Mekong stands on edge of canoe to prep fishing gearOn December 2017, ASU Center for Biodiversity Outcomes affiliated faculty John Sabo, in partnership with other scientists, published a Science magazine article titled “Designing river flows to improve food security futures in the Lower Mekong Basin.” [PDF] The Greater Mekong is Southeast Asia’s longest river, supporting the livelihoods of around 300 million people across the region. Deforestation, poorly operating dams and fisheries management are some of the major threats to the river. This article studies the link between hydrology and fisheries and provides recommendations for improving fishing and dam development relations. The authors do not recommend dams or state that their solutions can be applied to all dams, but in cases where dams are already built, but that it is possible to improve operations to support aquatic life, which translate to fish-food security for local communities. “We are not saying that ‘the dams will not impact fish movement’ – they certainly will!” they explain. “But our results suggest that we don’t have to consider it an all-or-nothing situation.” One of the authors, Vittoria Elliott, serves as the science director for Greater Mekong at the Moore Center for Science in Conservation International – one of ASU’s leading partnerships. Dr. Elliott has been instrumental in developing stakeholder engagement in the region to facilitate conservation research and decision-making. Since its publication, two of the paper’s authors, Albert Ruhi and Mauricio Arias, have joined the University of California-Berkley and the University of South Florida, respectively, as faculty. Another author, Peng Bun Ngor, will be joining ASU soon as postdoctoral research associate. It is this type of initiative that reminds us not only of the professional growth opportunities that flourish in collaborations with other scientists, but also the tremendous potential to develop innovative solutions to tackle some of the world’s most pressing conservation issues. Photo credits: John Sabo