AROUND 450 fishermen in Preah Sihanouk province's Stung Hav district have filed complaints with district and provincial authorities relating to illegal fishing operations in the area.
Fishermen said Tuesday that about 60 big boats were trawling in shallow waters off the coast, wiping out fish resources and threatening local livelihoods.
"Big boats with 300cc engines don't only impact our fishermen - they also affect marine resources, sea grass and baby fish," said fisherman Touch Vanna, 45.
Meas Vutha, a 50-year-old fisherman, said locals could not compete with larger boats.
"We borrow money from the bank to buy boats and fishing gear, but when we fail to catch many fish we have no money to pay back," he said.
Oum Deng, chief of the Stung Hav fishing community, said he had no authority to take action.
"It might be that they have paid bribes to the authorities already," he said. "One of these boats costs about US$120,000, so they are rich people."
Duong Sam Ath, chief of the Preah Sihanouk Fisheries Administration, confirmed he had received complaints from the fishermen, and that three boats were detained.
"Large boats must only fish in areas where the water is 20-30 metres deep. If they come to fish at shallower depths, we will confiscate their boat," he said, adding that boat owners would be arrested on their second offense.