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SReap officials eye rise in illegal fishing

091026_06
A fisherman prepares his legal, wide-holed net on the Siem Reap River. Province officials said illegal fishing rose this year.

Siem reap Province

ILLEGAL fishing on the Tonle Sap increased during this year’s offseason due to a drop in fishing hauls and problems enforcing fishing laws, officials said last week.

The announcement was made at a regional fishery seminar in Siem Reap on Thursday attended by more than 100 fishery officials, fishing community representatives and NGOs.

A law passed in 2006 bans fishing in the provinces of Siem Reap, Kampong Thom and Banteay Meanchey between June 1 and September 30, but enforcing it has proved problematic – not least because poorly paid officials allegedly neglect their work or accept bribes.

Mak Sithirith, executive director of the Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT), attributed the rise in illegal fishing to the depletion of fish stocks in the Tonle Sap.

“People are not catching as much fish as before,” he said. “We know that fishermen cannot feed their families, so it is common for them to use illegal equipment to catch fish.”

Siem Reap provincial Governor Sou Phirin said some people employ local fishermen to fish illegally on their behalf. He said that rather than take legal action against the fishermen, the authorities should instead educate them about the importance of preserving vital fish stocks.

Sok Chhin, deputy director of Porthi Treay fishing community in Puok district, said officials should consider offering illegal fishermen gasoline or money for food instead of taking punitive action against them.

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