Case-study /

Trans-boundary Fish Trade in the Lower Mekong Basin: Impacts on Fisheries and Rural Employment in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Thailand

Fish trade

Adaptation challenge

  • In the Mekong region, over 20,000 people rely directly on fish trading for employment along just one trade route through Cambodia, Lao PDR and Thailand.
  • The fish trade is on par with rice farming in terms of generating income. The fish trade sector provides up to 70% of household income for fisher households in Lao PDR.
  • Depletion of fish populations in the Mekong River will cause many people to lose a major source of income.
  • Many people employed by the fish trade sector are poor, rural villagers who have no other job opportunities.
  • The size of the fish trade between Stung Treng, Cambodia; Champassak, Lao PDR; and, Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand has grown significantly in recent years.

Expected outputs

The SUMERNET collaborative research among Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Thailand investigated the fish trade along one of three major transboundary routes in the region—between Stung Treng, Cambodia; Champassak, Lao PDR; and, Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand. They aimed to quantify its direct and multiplier effects on livelihood and employment by determining how much income the fish trade sector contributes to actors at each point of the fish trade commodity chain: fishers, traders, and exporters. By determining how many people depend on the trade for employment, the researchers demonstrate the sector’s significant and tangible economic value, and put a human face on a subject that most studies have primarily looked at from an ecological perspective.

Timescale of project



Mekong regional

Focal point

Mr. Raphael Glemet Water and Wetlands Programme Coordinator International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Lao PDR Email:


Hap Navy, Raphael Glemet, Khampheng Homsombath, Douangkham Singhanouvong, Chainarong Sretthachua, Eleanor Elbert, Eliza Berry

IUCN Lao PDR, IFReDI, LARReC, Mahasarakham University

Related resources