Myanmar (formerly Burma) occupies the Thailand/Cambodia portion of the Indochinese peninsula. It consists of an area of 657,741 sq km. The country's largest city is Yangon (the former capital Rangoon), with 6 million people. Myanmar is home to over 47 million people, which include dozens of different racial and ethnic groups, including the Mon, Burmans, Kachins, Chins, Shans, Rakhine, and Karens. Although Burmese is the major and official language of Myanmar, more than a hundred local and regional dialects are spoken throughout Myanmar.
Myanmar's coastline defines the eastern shore of the Bay of Bengal. The vast majority of Myanmar's people live in the lowland regions of the river valley in the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) basin. This fertile area, which sits within the tropical monsoon belt, is one of the world's best rice-growing regions.
With a coastline of nearly 3,000 km, Myanmar possesses a vast range of coastal habitats, including coral reefs, mangroves, sandy beaches and mudflats. Along the southern coast is a collection of offshore islands known as the Mergui Archipelago, where the majority of Myanmar's coral reefs are found. Currently, 65 coral species in 31 genera have been described in Myanmar's reefs, but these figures are probably an underestimate. The Reefs at Risk in Southeast Asia (RRSEA) project estimates that Myanmar has 1,700 km≤ of coral reefs which is around 1.7 percent of the Asia-Pacific total. Corals are an important coastal resource for sustaining coastal fisheries as well as tourism, particularly in the southern part of Myanmar.

Fisheries and aquaculture in Myanmar

With a 3,000 km long coastline which includes numerous rivers and channels, a vast majority of fishing communities in Myanmar live off the rich natural resources within the delta area and the sea. An estimated 800,000 people are employed within the fishery and aquaculture industry in Myanmar. Coastal aquaculture is limited mainly to shrimp farming which is practised with traditional methods, but it has shown to have great potential for future development in order to maximize export earnings. In 2008, Myanmar's marine fisheries produced 1.4 million mT, which represented over 55 percent of the country's fish supply. As of March 31, the end of the 2007-2008 fiscal year, fisheries exports amounted to only US$560 million, about $190 million less than the target of $750 million (FAO, 2008). With respect to recent events and damage to major fishing ports, boats, and fishing gears, hopes of reaching a target of $850 million for 2008-2009 may soon be dwindling.

Contributed by Jaime Neal, Graduate student, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia (UN Atlas member)