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Fishing village Myanmar
A local fishing village from Myanmar
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2. diary: A dream comes true

Everyone has a dream? During childhood or when young, all people has a dream! Some people can make their dream come true, some not, and some enjoy life and adapt to their environment.

When I was a child I lived in the countryside, my house was very close to the river and a reservoir. I always watched the people fishing with many methods; mostly they used pole and line. During the monsoon season water is everywhere, and many times it flooded villages and towns in the lower areas. All us children played with rowing boats, and were fishing with pole and line. We wanted to get fish like the elder, and we tried to catch big fish. When we got fish we gave it all to poor people, because our parents did not know what we were doing and didn’t allow the fishing. If they knew we would be beaten or punished.

When I studied at Yangon Art & Science University, my major subject was Zoology, with a specialisation in Ichthyology. After I graduated from the university I joined the People's Pearl and Fishery Cooperation, the Marine Fisheries Research Unit, as an assistant researcher. Our unit is still today the only one devoted to marine fisheries research in Myanmar. The young scientists conduct marine fisheries surveys in Myanmar waters onboard local fishing trawlers.

Local fishing vessels Myanmar

Local fishing vessels in port. Fishing is an important part of the economy in Myanmar

The Norwegian research vessel Dr. Fridtjof Nansen arrived Yangon, Myanmar in 1979 and 1980 to conduct marine fisheries surveys in Myanmar waters. The vessel is famous in the world; it has conducted fisheries resources surveys and collected oceanographic data around the world, and disseminated the information about the status of fisheries, biomass and MSY. At the time we were junior scientists just beginning to learn about the marine fisheries world. All of us wanted to work on the Nansen, learn more and experience advanced technology and methodology. This was, and still is, our dream, we wanted to learn and gain more experience; we wanted to make use of our acquired knowledge and take part in a survey with Nansen again. For many years after the vessel left Myanmar we were hoping it to be true again.

After 1980 we did have a chance to conduct our own surveys in cooperation with FAO, the name of the project was "Marine Fisheries Resources Survey and Exploratory Fishing Project". We started in the middle of November 1981 and for three years (1981 to 1983) we used a 120 ft stern trawler build in Norway, “vessel MFV 525” and conducted pre-monsoon, monsoon and post-monsoon surveys in our waters. We had no international scientist with us, only the master fisherman, and we were doing and learning by ourselves. We still had a dream, that one day the Dr. Fridtjof Nansen would come back again. We wished to collaborate with other scientists to conduct the research in our waters, but we didn’t know when our dream would come true.

The time passed, the situation changed. Some of our colleague moved to other jobs, some left our country while others passed away. I am the only one left from the marine fisheries resources survey department, today teaching young scientists' fisheries survey method with local commercial fishing boats. This are very different conditions compared with the Dr. Fridtjof Nansen. In the past we have collaborated with many marine research programmes together with our neighbouring countries, such as Thailand and India. Department of Fisheries (Myanmar) is however still using the data and information acquired during the past Dr. Fridtjof Nansen surveys conducted in Myanmar in 1979 and1980 in our marine fisheries management.
Myanmar collaborates since 2002 with the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem Project (BOBLME Project) and I am the National Coordinator of Myanmar. Our project main objective is to conduct marine fisheries resources survey again in our region, because we found that marine fisheries in our BOBLME region are overexploited. We have a plan but we need to find the finances and research vessel.
Mya Than-Tun and-Khin-Maung-Aye

The author, Mya Than Tun (right), on the trawl deck of Dr. Fridtjof Nansen discussing the catch with his colleague Khin Maung Aye

The chance came when we held the 2013, BOBLME Project, regional annual work plan meeting. The regional Coordinator informed me that the R.V Dr. Fridtjof Nansen will come to Myanmar in November to December 2013. We received the proposal through FAO (Myanmar) and I could submit the proposal to my Ministry according to our procedures. During the processing time we requested other relevant Ministries and institutions for their endorsement, this is the normal procedure and the Government always do this. I was worried about the time frame, time is going very fast, and we had difficulties, constraint and challenges too. We tried our best to get endorsement from relevant Ministries, and informed everyone about the process; finally, it was to be well done in the right time.

Finally, the R.V Dr. Fridtjof Nansen arrived the Nan Thida Jetty, at Yanogn River, Myanmar, on the right time, the crew and scientists from Nansen arrived Yangon, we all Myanmar Scientists arrived on board, we are happy to work at sea to gain the experience with the R.V Dr. Fridtjof Nansen, and learn with Norwegian scientists how to conduct marine fisheries surveys, and to observe the oceanographic condition in Myanmar waters.

At the right time Nansen left to the fishing ground at 13th November 2013. So, now we are at sea, this is my dream come true, after 33 years.