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Gov’t calls for closure of illegal snakehead fish farms

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries yesterday published a reminder to fish farmers to stay away from farming snakehead and striped snakehead fish, following an increase in the banned farms.

The farming of the fish, which is popular among Cambodian consumers and commonly sold in local markets, was first prohibited in 2005 because farmers were using fish from lakes and the river as feed, depleting the number of wild fish. Snakehead and striped snakehead farms were increasing in some provinces, reads the ministry’s announcement, sent to provincial authorities.

“We hope that all businesses and citizens will cooperate to eliminate this snakehead and striped snakehead fish farms, and follow the law and protect the natural fish resource for the long term,” the statement said.

Sorm Phirun, Kampong Chhnang’s provincial director of Fishery Administration, said that villagers along the Tonle Sap river ran illegal fish farms because of the lack of other business opportunities.

“Villagers did not have any choice for doing business. They saw that this kind of fish had a market and it would help their family’s economic situation,” he said.

He said there were around 18 small ponds, measuring 8 to 10 metres, in Kampong Tralach district ,and that his staff was searching for more illegal fish farms. Each farm, Phirun added, produced around 1,000 to 2,000 fish.

“Farmers said that they will not use the river fish [to feed the farmed fish], but they will buy tiny fish from the sea.”

Minh Bunly, program coordinator for Fishery Action Coalition Team, an NGO against illegal fishing, said that villagers couldn’t find fish in the river, which is why they turned to farming them, with some even selling tiny fish to Vietnam to be used as feed.

“We need to take measures to control these illegal fish farms by providing them knowledge” Bunly said, “If they can produce tiny fish in the farm for feeding they will not use the natural fish in the river.”

Hou Yoeurm, a 51-year-old fish farmer in Siem Reap’s Sonikum district, said that she knew farming the fish was illegal and banned, but that it was her only means of income.

“If authorities come to stop it, I cannot oppose them,” she said. ”I will follow what they ask me to do.”

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