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Water 2017, 9(9), 701; doi:10.3390/w9090701

The Current Status and Future of Central Asia’s Fish and Fisheries: Confronting a Wicked Problem

James Madison College, Michigan State University, 842 Chestnut Road, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
Center for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, Michigan State University, 427 North Shaw Lane, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
Department of Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences, Michigan State University, 1066 Bogue Street, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
Department of Biodiversity and Bioresources, Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, 71 Al-Farabi Avenue, Almaty 050040, Kazakhstan
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 16 August 2017 / Revised: 8 September 2017 / Accepted: 11 September 2017 / Published: 14 September 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Future of Water Management in Central Asia)
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Central Asia’s arid lowland ecosystems are dependent on water that originates in nearby mountains and is carried by rivers to terminal lakes and freshwater seas with no outlets to the ocean. Fish traditionally thrived in these waterways, but they have become increasingly jeopardized by water impoundment and diversion for energy and crop production. Fish capture in the five new Central Asian republics consequently entered a period of long decline, a trend that was accelerated by removal of the centralized controls imposed by the former Soviet Union. Production levels have recovered during the past decade, but only in some countries. A similar trend is evident with aquaculture, which reached its lowest production levels in 2003–2008 but now is partially recovering. In both cases, progress is most evident in water-deficient Uzbekistan. Fish capture in Kazakhstan’s Ili River ecosystem, including Kapchagay Reservoir and Lake Balkhash, is now dropping precipitously. Effects on the lake’s fisheries have been magnified by the disproportionate rates of disappearance of valuable carp and pike-perch. The interrelationships between water, energy, and food underlie these threats to Central Asia’s fish and define a classic “wicked problem” that must be addressed regionally with explicit attention given to fish as important components of the ecosystem. Recent developments, although not all positive, give reason for cautious optimism that the region’s fisheries and aquaculture industries can be stabilized. View Full-Text
Keywords: Central Asia; Lake Balkhash; Ili River; inland fisheries; water-energy-food nexus; sustainable fisheries; aquaculture Central Asia; Lake Balkhash; Ili River; inland fisheries; water-energy-food nexus; sustainable fisheries; aquaculture

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Graham, N.A.; Pueppke, S.G.; Uderbayev, T. The Current Status and Future of Central Asia’s Fish and Fisheries: Confronting a Wicked Problem. Water 2017, 9, 701.

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