Fishing livelihoods are under stress in many regions of the world, including the lower Mekong river basin. Building on research on the socio-economic impacts of hydroelectric development, this paper explores the spatial dimensions of livelihood diversifications. Research in 2016 and 2017, involving 26 semi-structured interviews in nine upstream, downstream, tributary and relocated villages in the vicinity of the Pak Mun hydroelectric dam, provides insight into how villagers have coped and adapted fishing livelihoods over time. Results are consistent with other research that has detailed the adverse effects of hydroelectric development on fishing livelihoods. Interviewees in the nine communities in the Isan region of Thailand experienced declines in the abundance and diversity of fish valued as food, and engaged in other household economic activities to support their families, including rice farming, marketing of fishing assets and other innovations. Stories of youth leaving communities (rural-urban migration) in search of employment and education were also shared. Although exploratory, our work confronts theories that fishing is a livelihood practice of “last resort”. Narratives suggest that both fishing and diversification to other activities have been both necessary and a choice among villagers with the ultimate aim of offsetting the adverse impacts and associated insecurity created by the dam development.
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