The Mekong River is one of the most biologically diverse rivers in the world, and it supports the most productive freshwater fisheries in the world. Millions of people in the Lower Mekong River Basin (LMB) countries of the Union of Myanmar (Burma), Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Kingdom of Thailand, the Kingdom of Cambodia, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam rely on the fisheries of the basin to provide a source of protein. The Mekong Fish Network Workshop was convened in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in February 2012 to discuss the potential for coordinating fisheries monitoring among nations and the utility of establishing standard methods for short- and long-term monitoring and data sharing throughout the LMB. The concept for this network developed out of a frequently cited need for fisheries researchers in the LMB to share their knowledge with other scientists and decisionmakers. A fish monitoring network could be a valuable forum for researchers to exchange ideas, store data, or access general information regarding fisheries studies in the LMB region. At the workshop, representatives from governments, nongovernmental organizations, and universities, as well as participating foreign technical experts, cited a great need for more international cooperation and technical support among them. Given the limited staff and resources of many institutions in the LMB, the success of the proposed network would depend on whether it could offer tools that would provide benefits to network participants. A potential tool discussed at the workshop was a user-friendly, Web-accessible portal and database that could help streamline data entry and storage at the institutional level, as well as facilitate communication and data sharing among institutions. The workshop provided a consensus to establish pilot standardized data collection and database efforts that will be further reviewed by the workshop participants. Overall, workshop participants agreed that this is the type of support that is greatly needed to answer their most pressing questions and to enable local researchers and resource managers to monitor and sustain the valuable and diverse aquatic life of the Mekong River.
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The Mekong Fish Network: expanding the capacity of the people and institutions of the Mekong River Basin to share information and conduct standardized fisheries monitoring