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Cambodia's wild lobster stocks replenished

Cambodia's wild lobster stocks replenished

120822_07

Fishermen set out at daybreak on the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post

Seven million young lobsters had been released into Cambodia’s rivers and Tonle Sap Lake this year in an effort to build the nation’s fish and shellfish stocks, officials said yesterday.

Nao Thouk, general director of the Fisheries Administration at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said, about a half million baby lobsters were released into the rivers and waterways of Cambodia in an effort to increase the amount of wild lobsters after sharp decreases in their population in recent years.

“We released young lobsters, numbering nearly a million so far this year. We released about 200,000 young losbters in Ang Trapaing Thma in Banteay Meanchey province and other places.”

The Fisheries Adminstration previously released 120,000 young lobsters in 2010, with the number increasing to one million last year, while this year, they planned to release seven million more, according to Nao Thouk, who spoke with the Post late last year.

Cambodia harvests about 100 tonnes of wild lobsters a year, though the market demands about 1,000 tonnes.

From the seven million lobsters released, only about five per cent of them are expected to live long enough to reach a weight of one kilogram.

However, hatching lobsters is a problem due to their tendency to fall ill and die, he said, adding: “We are collecting the females via fishing. But, after we release those hatched in capitivity there are a lot of deaths.”

Each day, there are between five to 20 illegal fishing operations that are stopped by Fisheries officials, Nao said.

“Illegal fishing activities will not end because there are people who live on or near the water and are in need of food or money. I compare it to the possibility of eliminating crime in Phnom Penh. If we manage to do that then illegal fishing would end as well,” he said.

As prices continue to climb for freshwater lobster, farming of the crustacean in Cambodia has increased.

A kilogram of top-quality lobster sells for about US$30, up from $10 in 2005, according to lobster farmers. The government is seeking to foster growth in Cambodia’s wild lobster population after overfishing diminished the population significantly in recent years.

Prom Vath, who runs a lobster hatchery in Angkor Borei district in Takeo province said that he increased the number of lobsters hatched to meet demand from customers who have sought nearly one million lobsters this year alone, up from around 600,000 lobsters last year.

“My clients in Siem Reap and other provinces have order more because they were successful in feeding the lobsters they received from me once they hatched, and were able to grow them to a size that fit their needs,” he said.

Khieu Sam, a lobster hatcher from Tramkok district in Takeo province, who previously hatched about 20,000 to 30,000 young lobsters a year, quit the business this year because of a lack of orders from lobster farmers who were incapable of feeding their stock properly.

“The raising of hatchlings that have been reserved requires a lot of capital. If there are no orders, it leads to a loss,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rann Reuy at [email protected]

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