Shrinking Rivers: the impact of overfishing in Mongolia

Mongolia’s fishing industry is under threat as unregulated commercial fishing becomes increasingly common. Coupled with habitat degradation, mining pollution, and loss of natural water sources, the future of the industry is uncertain.

The mongolian “Red List of Fishes”, which catalogs fish known to live in the counrty, states that nearly a quarter of mongolian fish species are facing a high risk of extinction and are considered threatened. A further 6% are listed as “near threatened”.

the Siberian Sturgeon, Bobi loach, Amur grayling and Taimen are just a few of the endangered species. While their habitats range from the Amur to the Onon rivers, the crisis is most critical in the waters of northern and eastern Mongolia. the Eg-Uur watershed where the 2 rivers meet in northern Mongolia is home to one of the largest populations of adult taimen (it is the largest Salmanoid sepcies and can grow to over 2 m and 50 kg. They are naturally rare).

Aditionally, the fish ressources of the Amur ruver have declined dramatically during the past century, (according to russian sources from 1910, the total catch of salmon in the Amur was over 100.000 tons. These number have decreased more than 10 fold, demonstrating the critical condition of Amur fishery).

The demand for caviar fish such as salmon and sturgeon, has inscreased in foreign markets such as China and Russia, aswell as in Mongolia. Traditionally, fish has not featured in the Mongolian diet, sidelined by domesticated livestock. However, thedemand has risen, not only because of resident and touring foreigners, but also because of the increased diversification of the mongolian diet itself.

Unregulated and illegal commercial fishing has risen in an attempt to accomodate demand, threatening the industry. Globally, overfishing has been identified as the most critical issue facing the world’s aquatic and marine ecosystems. The Mongolian Law on Hunting, established in 1995, has had a positive impact on the conservation of fish species. However, the prevention of illegal fishing is difficult, as the system of law enforcement remains inefficient and underfunded.

Organizations such as “Taimen Conservation Fund” are dedicated to preservation of the Taimen through habitat improvement, community development, and research projects.

The Mongolian Government, World Bank, and the Global Environmental Facility also support long-term projects in the hope of ensuring the Taimen will be preserved for future generations. Habitat degradation also poses a major threat. More and more of Mongolia’s land is used for private scetor mining projects. According to the “Red List”, extraction processes used in mining increase the sediment load in rivers, which can disrupt feeding, compromise reproduction, and cause habitat loss. Hard-rock mining also uses mercury or cyanide to extract gold, threatening river systems with organic pollution.

On top of Mongolia’s own issues, a predicted global reduction in the world’s fresh water sources could have a profound effect on the ecosystem. This would have grave consequences for the country’s aquatuc sepcies, particularly fish that inhabit in the Gobi desert.

According to the “Fish and Fishery Study in Mongolia”, better control and management of natural fishery resources is essential for protection of the industry. In order to maintain the country’s capacity for fishery management and development, a number of issues need to be addressed. These include the “protection of breeding stocks, improved collaboration between fishrman and fishery scientists and the balanced development of rivers systems”.

Solving Mongolia’s overfishing problems will require an assessment of the way natural resources are delegated. The ecological impacts over consumption are massive, and steps should be taken to ensure the future of Mongolia’s rich biodiversity.


(Article extracted from the UB Post, Febrary, 3rd)


if you want to know more about struggle against mining pollution, see the page of this frensh association involved in Mongolia:


Shrinking Rivers: the impact of overfishing in Mongolia was last modified: February 6th, 2012 by admin

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