Freshwater, Fish and the Future: Proceedings of the Global Cross-Sectoral Conference

Inland Fish and Fisheries: A Call to Action

T. Douglas Beard, Jr., Eddie H. Allison, Devin M. Bartley, Ian G. Cowx, Steven J. Cooke, Carlos Fuentevilla, Abigail J. Lynch, and William W. Taylor


Inland fish and fisheries provide food security, livelihoods, cultural and religious identity, recreation, and a source of income for millions of people globally (Welcomme et al. 2010; Lynch et al. 2016, this volume). Human connections to fish and fishing have existed for millennia on inland waters systems as diverse as the Mekong River (Voeun 2004) to the glacial lakes of the northern United States (Bogue 2000). Given the long-term importance of inland fisheries to societies, the lack of attention given to maintaining their sustainability during development of management policies and allocation decisions for inland water resources is alarming yet all too common. Further, globally, even the most basic information about inland fisheries is generally lacking, such as basic life history of important food fishes, total harvest and production, total contribution to employment and livelihoods, and contribution of inland fish to nutrition and human well-being (Welcomme et al. 2010; Beard et al. 2011). When in-depth analyses are attempted, the numbers reported often underestimate the true contribution of inland fisheries to society (Baran et al. 2007; Hortle 2007; Bartley et al. 2015). Increased pressure on inland waters to support multiple uses, such as the proposed damming of the Mekong River system for hydropower (Ziv et al. 2012), the diversion of water for municipal and agriculture use in California (Tanaka et al. 2006), and the conversion of forests to agriculture in the Amazon basin (Davidson et al. 2012), creates numerous challenges for inland fisheries management. The development of improved and integrated approaches (e.g., integrated water resources management; Hooper 2003; Grigg 2008) to understand the important role of inland fisheries to society and provide better governance mechanisms that cross political and sectoral boundaries will be important to ensure inland fisheries sustainability.