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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Global shrimp survey highlights ill effects of illegal trawling

Global shrimp survey highlights ill effects of illegal trawling

The existing limited ban on trawling is largely unenforced, notes an FAO report, which looks at the practice and the industry as a whole.

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The international shrimp trade is valued at US$10 billion, or 16 percent of global fishery exports, according to a press release for the FAO report, which also notes that the industry generates "substantial economic benefits" for many developing countries.

THE weak legal framework regulating the Kingdom's shrimp fishing industry has complicated efforts to curtail unlawful trawling, which has contributed to rising environmental and social hazards, according to a report published this week by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The limited nature of available data on the Kingdom's shrimp resources, moreover, makes it difficult to enact programs that would increase the industry's profitability and sustainability, the report states.

The 10-country survey, titled "The Global Study of Shrimp Fisheries", includes an overview of the Cambodian shrimp industry that highlights holes in the government's knowledge about it.

Researchers were unable to uncover, for example, the contribution of shrimp fishing to the GDP or the exact nature of the taxonomy of the Kingdom's shrimp catch.

But they were able to estimate that trawlers and other vessels bring in between 3,000 and 4,000 tonnes of shrimp annually, and the report notes that shrimp is "the most valuable fishery export of the country".

The trouble with trawling  

With regard to trawling, the report states that the ban against trawling in water less than 20 metres deep is not widely enforced, in part because the majority of trawlers in the Kingdom are small and thus not suited for offshore operations.

Trawling in shallow waters leads to conflicts with small-scale fishers, as trawlers destroy the equipment of small-scale fishers and operators "often do not pay compensation".

Trawler crews "are usually under the protection of high-ranking military, police or political officials", the report states, adding that such crews killed 22 fishermen along the coast between 1989 and 2002.

Kong Chhoy, a fisherman in Kampot province, said he and other local fishermen had engaged in physical confrontations as recently as last year with illegal trawlers and had reported them to local police. Their complaints had been ignored, he said.  

Nao Thuok, director of the Department of Fisheries at the Ministry of Agriculture, told the Post Thursday that illegal trawling was largely carried out by Thai and Vietnamese fishermen using illegal equipment.

"We will increase our efforts to fight the foreign fishermen who have invaded to illegally fish in Cambodia," Nao Thuok said.

The FAO report does point to "a significant amount of foreign trawling in the Cambodian zone" but does not say foreign fishermen are primarily to blame for illegal trawling. 

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