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Laos: Enforcement of Fishing Rule to Be Strengthened

(Dec. 11, 2014) Authorities in Laos have become concerned about the open sale of fishing equipment designed to send electric shocks through the water as a method of harvesting fish. (Electrified Fishing Forces Lao Authorities to Act, GLOBAL POST (Dec. 4, 2014).) The use of this method of fishing is banned under the Law on Agriculture, which states in article 68 that fishing methods with “destructive characteristics,” including electricity, are forbidden in order to protect fish species and other aquatic animals. (Law on Agriculture, No. 105/OP (in effect on Nov. 6, 1998), International Law Project website.)

To strengthen implementation of the Law, a police spokesperson stated, random inspections of the fish sold in the country will be made in order to determine what proportion was caught with the electric shock method. Initially, fishermen and marketers will be warned, but those that continue to use the illegal technique will be fined and subject to seizure of their equipment. (Electrified Fishing Forces Lao Authorities to Act, supra.)

According to Bounkhouang Khambounheuang, the Livestock and Fishers Department Director General, using electric shocks in fishing is more dangerous than poison would be. “We have to bear in mind that the use of high voltage equipment around water is inherently dangerous for both the user as well as the fish. … Ecologically speaking, the equipment will destroy not only the target species, but also other living things.” (Id.)

Equipment for this method of fishing cannot be legally sold or imported into Laos, but it has been seen in the markets of three provinces, Borikhamxay, Champassak, and Vientiane. Vientiane Province in particular is noted for its many rivers and supplies fish to markets elsewhere in the country. The fish populations have declined due to the widespread use of illegal fishing methods, raising the concern that the country will face shortages of fish, one of its major sources of protein. (Id.; Phonesavanh Sangsomboun, Fishermen Using Illegal Equipment in for a Shock, VIENTIANE TIMES (Dec. 4, 2014).)