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Anarchy and violence: the fishing lot system

Anarchy and violence: the fishing lot system

THE fishing lot system, which covers the majority of Cambodia's most productive

freshwater fishing areas, is at the heart of the country's freshwater fisheries

management. This system was first established by French Protectorate authorities

in 1927 and was reintroduced by the Cambodian Government in 1988.

The

fishing lot system hinges on the public auction of lots that allows successful

bidders exclusive two-year fishing rights to prescribed areas.

Cambodia

currently has 279 private fishing lots totaling 8,529 square kilometers across

the Tonle Sap and Cambodia's other rivers. Many of these lots include flood

plains and forest areas that are important for fish breeding as well as for

irrigation by farmers during the dry season.

What's theoretically left to

the free use of the Cambodian public is an estimated 24,114 square kilometers of

rivers, ponds, lakes and wetlands.

The source of the conflict between

those who depend on public access fishing areas for their livelihood and the

owners of commercial fishing lots is the frequently close proximity of the two

areas and fishing lot owners' application of the principle of revenue

maximization.

This principle encourages the use of illegal technology

that affects the entire river system, both public and private.

That

illegal technology - including electrocution, the use of "catch-all" mosquito

netting rather than legal gill nets, and the pumping dry of recession ponds -

effectively "sweeps" areas around and downstream of fishing lots clear of fish,

to the detriment of local villagers.

In addition, fishing lot owners

routinely deny local people access to public fishing areas that lie next to

fishing lots, and restrict local people's use of water inside fishing lot areas

traditionally used to irrigate their crops.

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