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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Illegal off-shore fishing on the rise in Cambodia

Illegal off-shore fishing on the rise in Cambodia

There has been a major upswing in offshore illegal fishing in Cambodian waters in

the past year despite Government attempts to implement a crackdown.

Local fishing communities are most concerned about Thai fishing boats that illegally

fish in Cambodian waters using high powered lights to attract and then blind fish

before scooping them up with fine meshed nets. The technique is indiscriminate and

small local operators believe it is leading to a decline in breeding stocks. They

are also concerned about the use of dynamite and poison in Cambodian waters.

Chut Tith, chief of Peam Krosop commune, Mondol Sima district, said that his people

were being forced out of business by the larger foreign boats and he was angry that

the illegal operators were protected by the provincial authorities and the military.

"How can the people live?" he said.

"Their incomes from fish are very small. In one day they catch less than a kilogram

for a small boat and less than three kilograms for big boats," he said.

Ney Ol, chief of the Koh Kong fisheries office, confessed that the illegal activities

were very hard to crack down on and now he and his staff were scared to approach

the illegal operators.

"Every time we tried to they shot at us and our boats," he said.

He compared his position to that of a young boy trying to fight men.

It is not just foreign fishing boats that are breaking the law. Ol said that locals

were using illegal push nets in Kampong Som's preservation zone in the bay.

The preservation zone is a key breeding area for many species. Ol said it was imperative

that the area be left alone.

"If we cannot protect the reservation zone from this illegal fishing our marine

resources such as fish, shrimp ... will be finished in the very near future,"

he said.

He said he was considering whether to place cement posts in the bay which would snag

nets in an effort to curb fishing in the area, but added that trying to stop illegal

fishing was like a person standing up and "expecting to touch a star in the

sky."

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