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

The Prospect for Regional Governance of Inland Fisheries in Central Eurasia

Norman A. Graham


Abstract .—The successor states to the former Soviet Union located in Central Asia and the Caucasus have substantial challenges in promoting sustainable inland and small-scale fisheries. This is particularly true due to the impact of the energy–water nexus that characterizes the domestic development challenges of the eight countries. Soviet policies on water usage for misguided agricultural development, including the cotton monoculture effort in Central Asia, depleted important water flows to traditional fisheries while more recent pressure for increased hydroelectric generation capacity within new national borders threatens to disrupt traditional fisheries and wildlife habitat. International tensions deriving from competing claims to river flows constrain regional cooperation and portend political and perhaps military conflict. There has been progress in regional economic integration among the Caspian basin littoral states, and in the context of the Economic Cooperation Organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the emerging Eurasian Economic Union, but suspicions as to motives held by key sponsoring states remain, as do perceived national interest conflicts. This paper explores the constraints and prospects for regional cooperation and governance, taking into account regional and bilateral tensions and drivers. Recommendations for future progress are proposed.