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The Shwedagon pagoda
The Shwedagon pagoda is covered in gold and very impressive. It is one of the biggest attractions in Myanmar, both for worshipping Buddhists and tourists. We had the opportunity to visit the pagoda at the day of arrival from Norway.
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Dr. Fridtjof Nansen surveying the waters of Myanmar

The EAF-Nansen project has returned to Myanmar after 33 years.  Four surveys with the old research vessel Dr. Fridtjof Nansen was carried out in the period 1979-1980 in cooperation with Burmese Government, Institute of Marine Research and FAO. The partners are the same now, although the country Burma has now changed its name to Myanmar. In addition, we have with us the BOBLME, the Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem project.  Myanmar is the largest fishing nation in the Bay of Bengal region. Total marine catches are uncertain but estimates ranges as high as 1.3 – 1.8 million tons y-1. The wild fish sector contributes around 10 % to the GDP and large part of the human population finds their livelihood in this sector.

In the past, the purpose of the Nansen program was to find new fish resources to utilize by the visited nations and their people. Today the global situation is very different and many nations have exploited their resources fully and beyond the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). Reliable abundance estimates and strict management is necessary to make the most out of the remaining resources. Myanmar has unreliable fisheries statistics and the only estimates of MSY were calculated based on data from the past Nansen surveys.

Diana Zaera

Diana Zaera doing her best to make sure that the survey is successful.

These indicated a MSY below 1 million tones. Discussions with Myanmar Fisheries Federation and the Myanmar Fisheries department describe a situation with decreasing fish body size rates, declining catches and increasing fishing efforts. In other words there is great need to update the abundance data of the marine resources in this region and the Myanmar Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development has large expectations to the survey.
The Dr. Fridtjof Nansen in port.

The Dr. Fridtjof Nansen in port. The local authorities had waved all port fees and made sure that we got one of the most central positions in port for the vessel.

The vessel arrived at Yangon port Sunday 10 November after three hour steaming up the winding shallow river. Passage is only possible on high tide, but the local pilots know their backwater and the journey was smooth. Four Norwegian scientists and the local participants were already gathered in the port when the vessel arrived. After speedy arrival procedures the rest of the day onboard were used to prepare two public events the next day. In the morning of the 11th, two busloads of biology students and lecturers arrived from the four Universities in the Yangon region. More than 60 people were guided through the vessel. In the afternoon another equally large group arrived with media representatives, scientists and managers from the fisheries administration. These were also shown around the vessel and got the opportunity to film and make interviews. The project has received considerable media attention and many local newspapers had the project as their top story.

The media has also been informed that the official launch of the survey will take place when the vessel returns to Yangon about midway in the survey coverage to replace some of the scientists onboard. Read the report in the newsmedia "ELEVEN "


The interest from media was large.

In the evening the same day Myanmar Fisheries Federation held a dinner in honor of the project. Here the Norwegian crew experienced true Myanmar hospitality. A wonderful dinner was rounded off with the Nansen Captain and Cruise Leader receiving two large paintings from the host. These will be placed on the walls of the vessel and will represent good memories for everyone that participated. The next day was set aside for a crew change and gave the opportunity to have more preparatory meetings, with FAO Residential Representative and with the BOBLME representative.

Several groups requested to see the vessel so the whole day the Norwegian scientists gave guided tours to show the vessel facilities and explained about the purpose of our survey. Finally on the morning of the 13th. The vessel could set course out the river and start the survey.
Nansen on front page

Many newspapers had Nansen on their front page the following day