TWO Cambodian fishermen sustained minor injuries on Tuesday night in a collision at sea after trying to disperse a group of Vietnamese boats they said were trespassing in Cambodian waters.
Neak Sen, a representative of 300 fishing families in Traey Koh commune, said that about 10 Vietnamese fishing boats were spotted off Karang Island in Kampot.
When local authorities ignored the vessels, his commune’s fishermen set out to turn them away. The collision occurred while the Vietnamese boats were making their getaway, he said.
He said the local fishermen were particularly angry that the two Vietnamese boats were using a pair of trawling nets, and that the others had set up electric luring lights – devices that have been banned in Cambodia in a bid to prevent overfishing.
“These illegal Vietnamese fishing incursions are not only hurting the local fishermen’s immediate livelihood, they’re also depleting the fish stocks and destroying the area’s coral reefs,” Neak Sen said.
Chiev Samith, deputy chief of Kampot province, said skirmishes between Cambodian and Vietnamese fishermen had been going on for several years, but that it was not a serious problem.
“Sometimes we arrest Vietnamese fishermen and sometimes Cambodian fishermen are arrested by Vietnamese authorities, but they are usually released after negotiations,” he said.
Nao Thuok, director general of the government’s Fisheries Administration, said he was not aware of the incident.
Although fishermen from each nation often stray into the waters of the other, he said, pair trawling – which uses a very large net strung between two boats – is illegal under Cambodian law.