Cambodia’s fish exports dropped 12 per cent in the first six months of 2014 compared with the same period last year, and the industry is divided as to the cause of the decline.
Cambodia exported a total of 8,300 tonnes, which includes 5,500 tonnes of fresh fish and 2,800 tonnes of processed fish products, from January to June, down from 9500 tonnes for the first six months of 2013, according to figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery.
Nao Thouk, head of the fisheries administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery told the Post the the decline in exports was due to a stronger domestic demand.
“We do not want the fish to be exported too much, or our people would not have enough fish to eat,” he said.
Thouk pointed to in increase in the fish harvest in 2013 to 718,000 tonnes up by 36,000 tonnes in 2012 as proof that Cambodia’s fishing industry was in good shape.
“It can be that the harvest of fish that qualifies for export is decreasing, which is driving exporting number down.”
But, Chhay Heang, a fish exporter who sells fresh fish to Singapore and China, said fisherman are catching less fish that are fit for export, demand is still strong according to Heang but there is not enough to go around to fill his orders.
“Five years ago, I can export up to almost 800 or 1,000 kilograms per week, but now I can only export around 200 to 300 kilograms per week,” he said.
Another concerned with the slowdown in fish quality was Om Savath, executive director of Cambodia’s Fish Action Coalition who said the declining number is predictable given that illegal fishing and poor monitoring remain an issue.
“We can see illegal fishing happening and the authority has always said they do not have enough people to monitor and prevent illegal fishing activities,” Savath said. “Cambodia is the fourth largest fish resource in Asia. This sector could generate more than $450 million into the economy annually, which could add up economic growth to more than 10 per cent if it is properly and more strictly managed,” he added.
Legally, the fishing season starts from October and runs to May. Cambodia exports to Hong Kong, China and other ASEAN countires.