A MILLION fish formed the front line of the conservation fight yesterday, when Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries officials released them in Kampong Thom provincial waters, celebrating the launching of a national aquaculture institute.
Yesterday’s celebration of National Fish Day in Baray district marks the official start of the Research and Aquaculture National Institute, a government-funded organisation that sets its goal at producing up to 20 million fish per year.
“We hope this National Institute will succeed in producing fish births to meet people’s needs and maintain fish from extinction,” Chan Sarun, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said at the ceremony.
The popularity of illegal techniques such as electro fishing, which can quickly wipe large numbers, has left the reproduction rate of Cambodia’s fish unsustainable, according to the institute.
This past year saw 5,307 documented cases of illegal fishing, Sarun said. In 2011, officials documented only 4,469 cases.
About five years in the making, the aquaculture institute began in 2008, when the government provided $8 million for the project, said Research and Aquaculture National Institute director Prom Phally.
The institute now boasts 30 hectares of water dedicated to aquaculture research and breeding. Facilitating a growth in fish population should prove a benefit to legal Cambodian fishers who depend on their catches for a living as well as the ecosystem, Phally said.
“After the fish spawn, we will release them into the rivers and lakes to reproduce more and increase quantity and maintain fish species,” Phally said. “It is very important.”
Fish populations are already on the rise, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. Between 2011 and 2012, the number of fish in Cambodian fisheries rose by 14 per cent.
Chan Tan, a 48-year-old fisher who attended the ceremony, knows first-hand the importance of maintaining a healthy fish population. Staving off the depletion of fisheries will not only help his family in the short-term, he said, but will also provide stability for future generations. “We fish legally to support our family,” Tan said. “Fish are our life.”