Fisheries officials said yesterday the government was working hard to improve national fish yields, but deflected blame for slow progress on over-fishing, which they said would continue to threaten the long-term sustainability of fish populations.
“When we talk about over-fishing, it’s the fishermen who do this,” said Nao Thouk, director of the Fisheries Administration. “It’s not me who has done this.”
Nao Thouk was speaking at a national conference in Phnom Penh, convened to analyse fisheries management and development since reforms were instituted in the early 2000s.
Nao Thouk’s comments came following a prediction he made in October, when he said 2010’s fish yields were set to decline by 30 percent on last year.
He admitted the Fisheries Administration was “not perfect”, but pointed to government programs that have released freshwater prawns and hatchlings into provincial fishing lots as a way to boost populations.
Nao Thouk said 120,000 freshwater prawns were released at a fishing lot in Pursat province in September.
“Now these prawns are very big, the size of this microphone,” he said from the podium, adding that the administration planned to free 500,000 more prawns in July.
The fisheries sector underwent significant changes in 2001, when 540,000 hectares of commercial fishing lots were released as public access lots under a community-based management scheme. Prior to its establishment, Prime Minister Hun Sen described fisheries officers as “leeches that suck the people’s blood”.
Om Savath, acting director of the Fisheries Action Coalition Team, which organised the conference, said corruption remains an issue.
“We don’t say that all Fisheries Administration officials [are corrupt], but some are getting under-the-table payments to allow illegal fishing,” he said. “Some fishermen are guilty too.”
Under the 2006 Fisheries Law, 14 fishing methods are banned, including the use of batteries and mosquito nets.