Fisheries agency says it will lift 5-year-old prohibition on farming the carnivore when alternative food source found.
Snakefish - the import and breeding of which is illegal - on sale in a Phnom Penh market.
THE Fisheries Administration said this week it is searching for sustainable food sources for the highly carnivorous snakefish, which would allow Cambodian farmers to once again raise the popular protein source - the farming of which has been prohibited since 2004 out of concerns for its impact on fish stocks.
"The prohibition on raising snakefish will not be in effect forever," Sam Nuov, deputy director of the Fisheries Administration, told the Post Tuesday.
The administration, however, denied local media reports that said the government was on the verge of an agreement that would allow companies to import snakefish from Vietnam.
"We do not have [sustainable] food [stocks] for this kind of fish yet, and we cannot lose small species as prey for snakefish," Sam Nuov said.
Despite being illegal, both raising and importing snakefish is common, Sam Nuov said.
"Currently, we have many fishery lots around the Tonle Sap, especially in Battambang province, which are major sources of snakefish," he said, adding that the Fisheries Administration had increased their response to illegal snakefish breeders but have not been able to prevent fish smuggling.
Raids are risky
Chin Da, head of the Aquatic Intensification Office at the Fisheries Administration, said that raids of illegal fisheries can lead to snakefish being released into the wild.
"When farmers are found to raise this kind of fish, they are fined ... then the fish are confiscated and set free into the rivers," where they pose a threat to Cambodia's aquatic diversity and could lead to a decline in Cambodia's fish stock, he said.
"If snakefish are raised in the Tonle Sap river, other fish of smaller species will be lost," said Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture, or CEDAC.
The Fisheries Administration said it was working hard to improve Cambodia's fish stocks and "had plans to offset the problem of snakefish including protecting natural breeding species in the Tonle Sap River", Sam Nuov said.