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.
fishing lot system hinges on the public auction of lots that allows successful
bidders exclusive two-year fishing rights to prescribed areas.
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
This principle encourages the use of illegal technology
that affects the entire river system, both public and private.
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.