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Can Angling Tourism improve the prospects of some of Thailand's endangered fish species?

Harvesting river fish has been a vital food source for large sections of the Thai population over many hundreds, if not thousands of years. Sadly with growing populations, and ever more effective methods for catching fish over the generations, many of Thailand's wild fish stocks have been depleted to such an extent that they are now under grave threat of extinction, indeed fishing villages on the Mekong have also declined in line with lower and lower catch rates, suggesting that most of the rivers inhabitants have declined to very low levels. Added pressure has been brought to bear on migratory species such as the Mekong Giant Catfish as a result of some of Thailand's largest rivers being dammed for power generation, and water supply, leaving migratory routes and access to spawning grounds blocked. Less is known about movements of the Giant Siamese Carp in the wild except that the capture of large adult specimens is now becoming extremely rare throughout South-east Asia, it's likely in fact that the Giant Siamese Carp is even more scarce in South-East Asia's Rivers than The Giant Catfish. Compounding these problems further, deforestation has meant that large amounts of silt entering the rivers has reduced weed/algae growth, which are the larger species staple food sources.

In more recent times Thai government initiatives aimed at slowing the steady decline of fish populations in the country's major waterways, have been put into action. Although it is perhaps difficult to say if these efforts are making a difference in real terms, the practice of breeding fish in captivity and releasing juveniles into the wild over the last 20 years, does illustrate a growing awareness amongst local people of the dire situation many of Thailand's River fish are in. Problems are rarely solved without such awareness, and a recent gesture of goodwill from Thai fishermen of the Mekong, is another encouraging sign. As a gift to the King of Thailand they have declared they will stop fishing for Mekong Giant Catfish from the date of the Kings 2006 birthday onwards. In most countries such a gesture may not be taken too seriously, but in a country that holds their Royal family in deep reverence such a gesture will prove a valuable contribution to conservation efforts. In addition to this there are now many areas in Thailand that are protected from fishermen altogether, since they fall under the auspices of the country's National Parks. Once again this is relatively new situation for which long term effects have not yet been measured, but every little helps.

Despite the fact many ecologists and anglers don't see eye to eye about the role that sport/recreational fishing plays in the conservation of both fish stocks and fish habitats. As catch and release anglers we are all aware of the deep concern we have over the well-being of our quarry, and the respect we have for the environments we carry on our pastime in. A mindset that animal rights purists have never been able to understand, but a mindset that has nonetheless secured the future of numerous species of fish throughout the developed world. Recreational fishing has provided economic alternatives for many River/Fishing communities in more developed parts of the world, and it's our view that ultimately it could do the same for Thailand. Siam Fishing Tours believes that promoting catch and release sport fishing in Thailand could ultimately prove to be a large contributing factor to a growing awareness in Thailand that their rivers and the rivers inhabitants are more valuable than just simply a food source, in fact this has already begun to occur with Thailand's middle class, now carrying on recreational fishing in many of the countries reservoirs . One day, when recreational fishing as at the core of fishing activity in Thailand, it's rivers and lakes will once again hold an abundance of fish the size of which are not found anywhere else in the world today. This day cannot come soon enough for Thailand's endangered species.