Asmuggler and his 300 kilogram consignment of endangered fish were seized on the
Lao border then released January 26 after political pressure was applied to the
Peng Kim, the second deputy governor of Stung
Treng, organized the arrests, but claimed provincial officials were forced to
release the man after she was overruled by a higher provincial
"I ordered the fish seized according to the regulation banning
trade in endangered fish species," she said. "However after intervention from
above they had to release the trafficker. This case has proved very
Kim, who is in charge of agriculture, forestry and fisheries
in the province, said this was the first time provincial authorities had seized
a consignment of endangered fish. Although the practice was widespread, finding
evidence was very difficult.
"I am completely against smugglers who
traffic in wildlife and endangered fish species," she said. "But every time
there is intervention from the top to release the traffickers. I am very
disappointed. The illegal smugglers just laugh at me."
Nao Thouk, head of
the fisheries department, confirmed that smuggling tree trawsak, also known as
the seven-line barb, was illegal. He said all trade in endangered fish species
was banned by sub-decree 33 issued in 1987. He said he was yet to get official
notice of this case, but would send staff to investigate.
of the Culture and Environment Preservation Association, Tep Bunnarith, said
endangered species continued to be threatened on the Upper Mekong. Fishermen
regularly caught them for sale, while the authorities often excused their poor
enforcement by claiming a lack of facilities allowing them to monitor the
"Weak action from provincial authorities does seem to
encourage the illegal smugglers to commit more abuses," he said, adding that
preservation required participation from the local community.
community fisheries can preserve the mother fish or endangered fish species,"
said Bunnarith. "But so far in Stung Treng there has been very slow progress in
setting up community fisheries."