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Net widens on fishing trap ban

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Less than a week after banning commercial fishing in Tonle Sap Lake, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a sub-decree on Monday extending the ban to four provinces along the Mekong River.

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According to the sub-decree, signed March 5 and released publicly yesterday, commercial fishing will be outlawed in Kandal, Kampong Cham, Takeo and Prey Veng provinces, effective April 10.

“All fishing lots, except those for lobster and linh fishing, will be closed on April 10,” the decree said, and only available for use by families thereafter.

Lobster and linh fishing did not pose serious problems, so were excluded from the ban, Por Try, secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said.

Por Try vowed to “follow the government order” and said the Prime Minister had first discussed the ban with his ministry at a meeting “a few weeks ago”.

Mina Bunly, co-ordinator for NGO Fisheries Action Coalition Team, applauded the announcement.

“We are very happy about this order,” he said.

“Fishermen will now be able to find more fish and better support their families,” she added.

Last Tuesday, the premier ex­tended indefinitely a ban on commercial fishing in the Tonle Sap Lake, citing concerns over ongoing illegal fishing and its adverse effects on villagers.

The ban had been in place since last August and covered 600,000 hectares of fishing waters in Battambang, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Thom, Pursat and Siem Reap provinces.

On Friday, the premier followed up the ban with a call for the release of all prisoners who had been detained during the government crackdown.

Towards that end, Siem Reap provincial prosecutor Ty Soventhal reported that 19 of the 20 men in prison there on convictions of illegal fishing had been released yesterday.

The other was awaiting a decision from the Appeal Court, he said.

Chhun Chhorn, provincial governor of Kampong Thom province, similarly reported that 11 prisoners had been released yesterday in his province.

“They were released by the court because they have committed minor offences; they just used batteries to electrocute fish,” he told the Post yesterday.

Chhuom Run, prison researcher for the rights group Licadho in Kampong Thom province, said the released men would still have to stand trial and must check in at their district police station three times a month.

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