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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Illegal practices threaten fish industry

Illegal practices threaten fish industry

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Fishermen haul in a net that had been strung across the width of the Tonle Sap River.

A new generation of illegal fishermen, equipped with the latest drag net technology

and using powerful speedboats, are accused of threatening the viability of commercial

fishing in the Kingdom.

In Kampong Thom, Kampong Chhnang along the Tonle Sap and the Great Lake, Battambang

and other provinces, fishermen using surface trawl, bottom trawl and giant cast nets

are taking record fish catches that fishers and fishery officials say are dangerously

unsustainable.

Villagers from Kampong Chhnang's Cholasa District have filed complaints about the

new industrial fishing techniques with the Department of Fisheries asking for urgent

intervention.

Villagers' representative Heng Sokhalay told the Post that since March 9 more than

20 armed boats outfitted with the new nets had been fishing in their district.

Sokhalay said that the tools are completely illegal but that Hun Sen's recent announcement

abolishing taxes on fishing equipment has been taken by unscrupulous fishermen as

a green light for the use of all and any tools available.

"This [industrial fishing] is worse than electrical fishing because they string

the nets across the entire width of rivers and catch everything," he said. "We

need [Hun Sen] to review this matter because if things continue the way they are

now we will have no fish to catch."

Another factor cited in the sudden boom in illegal industrial fishing techniques

is the withdrawal in recent months of fisheries officials at the grassroots level

due to allegations of corruption.

Em Vorin, Chief of Battambang's fisheries office in Battambang, acknowledged that

illegal fishing was increasing exponentially and "seems to be out of control".

Of particular concern to Vorin is the effect that the absence of fisheries officers

on the rivers has had on the previously pristine "research fishing lots".

"Research lots are being plundered by illegal fishermen because there are no

officials on hand to monitor the situation," he said.

Vorin's concerns were echoed by Ieng Kim Eng, Deputy Chief of Kampong Thom's fisheries

office.

"Fishermen taking advantage of the situation by colluding with military personnel

and using illegal fishing equipment are rapidly depleting our fish resources,"

he warned.

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