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Fishers report record catch

fish.jpg
fish.jpg

Fisherman Pe Men with a catch from the Mekong at Steung Treng.

MEKONG River fishermen in Steung Treng province are reporting exponential increases

in fish catches during the October 2000- May 2001 upper river fishing season.

A dozen fishermen consulted by the Post on June 5 were unanimous in their assertion

that fish catches for this season have been ten to fifteen times larger than those

of last season.

"This year I'm catching many more fish than last year, said Pe Men, an ethnic

Lao resident of Leu village in Strung Treng's Thalaboriwat district.

Men's appraisal of the size of the season's fishing catch was echoed by fellow Leu

villager Kham Lean, who credited a halt in illegal fishing methods over the past

year to the resurgence in the Mekong's fish population.

"Over the past two years thousands of grenades exploded in the [river] water

each month along with poison and electrical fishing," Lean said. "But this

year illegal activities seem to have stopped and the fish have survived and produced

a lot of baby fish."

Villagers in Steung Treng's O'Svay commune report similar increases in fish catches,

estimating that fishermen have made daily hauls of 100-150 kilograms of fish daily

compared to a mere ten kilos in 1999-2000.

Kong Vuthy, head of the O'Svay community fisheries project, says the establishment

of the project at the beginning of 2000 has had a dramatic impact on reducing illegal

fishing of all kinds.

In co-operation with the upper Mekong's Culture and Environment Preservation Association

(CEPA), Vuthy and his neighbors have also initiated efforts to raise awareness of

the need to protect endangered Mekong fish species such as the Mekong dolphin and

the Mekong giant cat fish by raising educational signboards along strategic points

of the river and in area fishing villages.

"We hope [the education campaign] will provide awareness to villagers to protect

fish species and prevent illegal fishing," said Sous Sivutha, head of CEPA's

Steung Treng office.

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