The Pa Khoun “Wallago leerii” Project is a local conservation initiative to conserve this valuable fish species in the Khui and Saan rivers in the Ngum river basin of Hom district.
Pa Khoun “Wallago leerii” is a freshwater migratory catfish species, listed as a Category 1 endangered species by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and as a highly endangered species in Lao Wildlife law No. 07/LNA, dated 24/12/2007.
Every year during the breeding seasons between late July and August, Wellago leerii swim to their natural breeding and spawning site along the Khui and Saan rivers in Hom district of Vientiane province. This area plays an important role in the Wallago leerii lifecycle. While the Wallago leerii swim upstream to the breeding and spawning area, the rivers become packed with fishing boats of both local villagers and outsiders trying to catch as many Wallago leerii as they can in this area.
Due to the overfishing during this period, Hom district authorities and local people have noticed considerable pressure and threats to the Wallago leerii species from unregulated fishing in Khui and Saan rivers, followed by a great decline in Wallago leerii catch. As a result, this species may go extinct, which would affect the natural balance and abundance to the entire Ngum river basin. So the local authority submitted a proposal to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) requesting their technical assistance and to figure out the best ways to protect this important species. IUCN together with LARReC and Hom district then updated the proposal based on these needs and focused on enhancing capacity of local institutions to conservation initiative on Wallago leerii, which they then submitted to the US Embassy in Vientiane. This was approved and the contract officially signed on the 14th of July 2011.
With this financial support, IUCN Lao PDR’s office and LARReC provided technical assistance to the Hom District Agriculture and Fisheries in setting up conservation zones and monitoring teams, drafting and approving rules and regulations, and building the capacity to enforce them. Efficient conservation enforcement around the breeding and spawning areas is especially important. In addition to the conservation initiatives, LARReC provided training on mobile hatchery for this species, enhancing the capacity of local institutions for reproducing this species. All of these conservation initiatives were conducted in 12 villages of Hom district as they agreed to address the great population decline and threats by banning fishing of Wallago leerii during the breeding and spawning season, and this conservation initiative should also encourage other villages nearby Khui and Saan rivers and Nam Ngum to collaborate and join the partnership as well.