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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Govt's claim of production rises due to aquaculture 'fishy': SRP

Govt's claim of production rises due to aquaculture 'fishy': SRP

GOVERNMENT claims that the fishing

industry has shown steady growth because of aquaculture has drawn

criticism from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.

Nao Thuok,

director general of the Cambodian Fisheries Administration, speaking

last week at a workshop attended by local and provincial officials,

said Cambodia's fishing industry output has increased 18 percent

year-on-year.

"About 35,000 tonnes of fish, including 5,000

tonnes of non-farmed fish, were caught last year, and that number is

expected to reach 40,000 this year because of more reliance on

aquaculture practices," he said.

But SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann called the figures "distorted".

"The

increased output of fish exists only on paper," he told the Post last

week. "In practical terms, fishing resources are getting poorer and

poorer due to rampant illegal fishing in collusion with corrupt

government officials."

Nao Thuok admitted Cambodia still lags

far behind regional neighbours in total tonnage of fish caught

annually. Vietnam processes about 2 million tonnes each year. That

number is 600,000 in Thailand and 60,000 in Laos.

He said fish provide as much as 75 percent of the protein intake of all Cambodians, who eat about 50 kg individually each year.

With a population of approximately 14 million, Cambodia needs about 700,000 tonnes of fish annually.

"The

government is encouraging greater investment in fisheries and

aquaculture to ensure the sustainability of the sector," Nao Thuok said.

Despite

a growing domestic need, Cambodia exports fish throughout the region,

including to Australia, Hong Kong, and the United States.

"Some 20,000 tonnes are exported every year, at a value of about US$40 million," he said.

Reed

Aeschliman, director of USAID's governance and democracy office in

Cambodia, said aquaculture could contribute  to economic growth, adding

the organisation currently assists nearly 500 aquaculture farmers.

Yim Sovann said he sees the situation differently.

"We

already know that our fishing resources are nearly gone," he said. "Law

enforcement and greater transparency are the things that will better

develop the [fishing] sector."

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