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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Illegal fishing casts a pall over island communities in S'ville

Illegal fishing casts a pall over island communities in S'ville

The widespread use of banned nets is hurting local subsistence fishermen who say their catches and profits are rapidly shrinking

AS much as 75 percent of fishermen operating in the waters off of Sihanoukville are using illegal nets and threaten to destroy sea life in the area, a rights group says, adding that many local fishing communities are suffering because of the rogue anglers.

"Normal fishermen cannot compete with those using illegal small-holed nets," said Chiep Sotheary, a coordinator for Adhoc in Sihanoukville.

She said nets with small holes were banned by the government because of the damage they cause to fish populations. "They cause a rapid depletion of natural resources," Chiep Sotheary said.

Fishermen using legal nets are struggling to survive because their hauls and profits are smaller and the cost of maintaining and fuelling their boats is high, she said, adding that "most of the illegal fishing is done by people from outside the province".

One local fisherman, Se Sok, said he is earning drastically less per day because of growing illegal fishing.

"[Illegal fishing] has doubled from last year," Se Sok said, adding that he could not count the number of boats using illegal nets.

Ineffective oversight

Try Chhoun, an Adhoc coordinator from Kampot province, said the problem seems particularly troubling in Sihanoukville compared with other provinces.

"About eight out of 10 fishing boats in Koh Kyang are using illegal nets," she told the Post by phone during a trip to monitor the problem in Sihanoukville's Prey Nop district. "If there is no government intervention, the available natural resources in this area will decline."

Provincial officials are aware of the problem but have not been able to stop illegal fishing.

"We have not been able to take effective action to stop this," said Sun Saran, a fisheries official in Sihanoukville, adding that he faces "intervention from powerful people".

Governor Say Hak told the Post he was also aware of the high rate of illegal fishing in Koh Kyang. "We always take legal action and fine those who use illegal fishing nets, but many problems still exist," he said.

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