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Sunset at the Rakhine coast, Myanmar.
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3. diary: The new dawn of Myanmar

In light of the recent large political changes in Myanmar, opportunities are now within range to reach the goals of better management of the marine ecosystem through capacity building in science and management. But we need better training and international cooperation with partners bringing knowledge with this as scope.

The Government of the Union of the Myanmar has advocated to “break away from IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated) fishing” as a sustainable use and national development target. The numbers for total marine catches are insufficient and unreliable, but rough estimates are in the order of 1.3 – 1.8 million tons per year, making Myanmar the largest fishing nation in the Bay of Bengal. However, the only estimates of Maximum Sustainable Yield are 33 years old, recommending the annual catch to be < 1 million tones, based on data from the past R/V Dr. Nansen surveys in 1979-80.

Our economy is highly dependent of fisheries resources as well as supply for healthy food. It is important to gain knowledge about the marine ecosystem, study the climatic and human impact and to establish a control and management system for sustainable harvesting of the resources. 

Sorting samples

Sorting samples on deck.

In October 2013, we became aware about the R/V Dr. Fridtjof Nansen coming to Myanmar through a TV program. At the time we did not know that we would participate in this research, but shortly after the Ministry of Education told us about this opportunity. We were very excited to receive the news about being able to work onboard Dr. Fridtjof Nansen.

After arriving onboard, we were four people from two universities in Myanmar who is dedicated to work with plankton sampling. We are learning to use a systematic and repetitive sampling method with different kinds of equipment, such as nets with different designs for capturing organisms of various size classes.

We also use different laboratory techniques to treat the samples before storage for later biomass calculations and taxonomic analysis on shore. This experience will help in our teaching and further research. We experience a spirit of good cooperation onboard with crew, steward, chief, engineers, technicians, scientists, officers and captain working together to obtain good scientific results. We appreciate all participants’ enthusiasm, encouragement, forbearing guidance and excellent service helping to improve our studies and make our research onboard enjoyable.