Conservation International / Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations / The Nature Conservancy / United States Geological Survey / University of Hull International Fisheries Institute / Wetlands International / World Wide Fund for Nature

Water for Fish: Sustainable Inland Fisheries

Tuesday 28 August | 11.00-12.30 | Room: L9
© Peter Nijenhuis 2011

Our objective, during this session, is for the participants to raise questions and discuss opinions about the barriers and opportunities to achieving sustainable inland fisheries and, from this, to identify actions that can provide solutions to these questions. We will achieve this through case studies and plenary discussion. A series of speed presentations will allow inland fishery practitioners to provide examples of challenges, opportunities, and successful initiatives in inland fisheries hotspots. We will follow this with a plenary discussion, with an expert panel who will provide their perspectives on how inland fisheries can be integrated sustainably into overall management of water resources. A key part of this plenary discussion will be to engage the audience, and for the panel to ask audience participants, from different sectors, to provide their opinions and answer questions. We are particularly interested in hearing the perspectives of representatives from sectors outside the fisheries sector (e.g., from representatives in the water sector, from economists, and social scientists), in terms of what challenges and drivers they see to the development of sustainable inland fisheries, working alongside other human water resource requirements.

Gold standard events are committed to ensure the gender balance in speakers/panellists and young professional representation in the session.


Section 1. 11:00-11:05. Introduction (by Ian Harrison, CI)

A brief introduction on the expected structure and desired outputs of the session. We will present the audience with a set of key questions on issues of how to integrate inland fisheries into river basin management approaches and equitable sharing of water resources. These questions will lead our plenary discussion (section 3). Audience participants will have the opportunity to write down additional questions they wish to discuss in plenary.

Section 2. 11:05-11.55. Speed Presentations. (Moderated by Abigail Lynch, USGS).

Seven presentations in total:

  • State of the World’s Fisheries. Simon Funge-Smith, FAO. A summary of the global facts and figures of inland fisheries, their location, production, value and contributions to food security, livelihoods and the SDGs.
  • Lake Tanganyika’s fisheries and fish diversity: addressing threats from village to basin-scale. Colin Apse, The Nature Conservancy. This will summarize upon the threats from climate change, unsustainable fishing, and incompatible land use management to Lake Tanganyika’s fisheries and fish diversity, and how collaborative approaches underway from the village to basin scale address and adapt to these threats.
  • Replacement Water Cost of Global Inland Fisheries. Rachel Ainsworth, University of Hull International Fisheries Institute. This will summarize the replacement water demand of inland fisheries with alternative food sources globally and regionally, in addition to assessing the impact on water scarcity of fisheries replacement in the Lower Mekong Delta.
  • Fishery sustainable development in the Inner Niger Delta: challenges and opportunities. Karounga Keita, Wetlands International. The Inner Niger Delta is the largest wetlands in West Africa, producing more than 60% of fish in Mali 15 years ago; but this has fallen to 40% due to the reduction of fish spawning area and insecurity. Some opportunities for fishery development will be discussed.
  • A study of the Kafue Flats Fishery. Chanda Mwale, WWF-Zambia. A new study of the one of the most important fisheries in Zambia, with discussion of the potential for improved community management.
  • Mekong inland fisheries under threat. Vittoria Elliott, Conservation International. This will summarize the challenges for inland fisheries in the Mekong, including water availability, and discuss some of the interventions proposed to address them.
  • InFish: a cross-sectoral inland fisheries community of practice. Abigail Lynch, USGS. The current limitations to valuing the services provided by inland fishes and fisheries make comparison with other water resource users extremely difficult and makes projected impacts of global change highly uncertain. The international ‘InFish’ research network is a voluntary group with over 80 members from over 35 organizations in over 15 countries that seeks to address current issues facing inland fisheries through novel approaches.

Each presentation is five minutes and uses the Ignite format (20 slides, each with one set of images, advancing every 15 seconds) to keep to time, with an additional two minutes for transfer between presentations and one or two brief clarifying questions.  Audience participants will have an opportunity to discuss more in depth questions in the plenary discussion (section 3).

Section 3. 11:55-12.25. Plenary discussion (Moderated by Robin Abell [Conservation International]; assisted by Ingrid Timboe [Alliance for Global Water Adaptation AGWA Secretariat]).

The plenary discussion is an opportunity to ask additional questions of the presenters, especially as they relate to larger concepts of sustainable inland fisheries. But the focus of this discussion will be for an expert panel to provide their perspectives on how inland fisheries can be integrated sustainably into overall management of water resources; and for the panel to ask audience participants, from different sectors, to provide their opinions and answer questions.

The panel is expected to include:

  • Simon Funge-Smith, FAO.
  • Ian Cowx, University of Hull International Fisheries Institute
  • Kathleen Dominique, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • Fred Boltz, Resolute Development Solutions
  • Chris Dickens, International Water Management Institute
  • Matthew McCartney, International Water Management Institute

We will include young professional rapporteurs to record key comments from the speed presentations and from the plenary discussion.

Section 4. 12:25-12:30. Wrap-up.

We will allow five minutes for a summary of the key points from the plenary discussion, and a list of recommendations for next steps. We aim for three main goals from this session:

  1. to provide a summary of all questions and key discussion points in the session (from rapporteur reports)
  2. to provide a set of recommendations that can help water resource managers plan for sustainable inland fisheries, along with trade-offs that might be necessary to achieve this.
  3. to identify a group of people who will be willing to take the outputs from the session and find opportunities to extend the discussion of their application further.

Recommendations will also be made for scheduling informal follow-up meetings between session participants, during World Water Week, to allow further discussion and collaborative planning. 


Despite contributing up to 20 percent of national GDP in developing countries, inland fisheries are often overlooked in policy discussions and decisions around water, land use planning and infrastructure development. This fails to recognize the vital food, economic and livelihood benefits fisheries provide in some regions, particularly critical for some of the poorest nations. Using site-specific examples from across Africa and Asia, and global studies of the state and importance of inland fisheries, speakers from Conservation International, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, International Water Management Institute, The Nature Conservancy, University of Hull, The United States Geological Survey, Wetlands International, and WWF-Zambia, discussed strategies to ensure the sustainability of inland fisheries. Many strategies involve highlighting inland fisheries contributions as part of the broader water sector resource management approach.

Our panel discussion included representatives from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and Resolute Development Solutions. Panelists highlighted that inland fisheries often lose out among multiple competing needs for scarce freshwater resources; with few easy solutions forthcoming to secure sustainable inland fisheries. The greatest challenge is that inland fisheries are considered a subsistence system, and not economically relevant, placing inland fisheries as less important than other water resource uses, and at risk. This is compounded by their lack of visibility and an assumption that they will always be there. 

Panelists noted that, historically, water has been allocated to people and agriculture as a priority, and fish and fisheries have been largely ignored. Water that is left in rivers for fisheries is seen as an unproductive. We must ally with managers for environmental flows and show how the conservation of water for the ecosystem is productive. In some cases, different water-using systems can co-exist and be mutually beneficial, in other cases decisions must be made about trade-offs.


  1. We must highlight to key decision makers that sustainable management of inland fisheries is a development opportunity, and not a limiting factor for social and economic development. We should integrate the co-benefits of fisheries with overall management of healthy ecosystems (e.g. through new regulatory standards, micro credit access, etc.).
  2. Cooperation between fisheries and water sectors, with shared interests in efficient resource management, is crucial for solutions across water needs, in the face of infrastructure development and changing climate. Citizen/developer engagement, and creation of tools to help decision makers evaluate how their actions affect fisheries, are also important.


  1. The session highlighted the work of InFish (, an international collaborative network of governments, universities, and non-governmental organizations that tackles some of the most pressing issues facing global inland fisheries by “thinking outside the fishbowl” and engaging with other sectors.
  2. The session emphasized, as a resource, the large global study of inland fisheries conducted by FAO (Funge-Smith, 2018, FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Circular No. C942 Rev.3), as well as other decision-support tools that highlight the relevance of inland fisheries in a global, regional and local development context.