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Fish exports fail to impress

Fish in a holding tank are sorted by a man in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district in December
Fish in a holding tank are sorted by a man in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district in December. Hong Menea

Fish exports fail to impress

Cambodian fishery exports rose slightly during the first three months of the year, according to a report by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The report, which was released yesterday, says that fish exports reached 4,800 tonnes in the first quarter, a year-on-year increase of 6.6 per cent.

The export total includes 3,100 tonnes of freshly caught fish and 1,700 tonnes of processed catches. Cambodia earned more than $3.5 million from fish exports during the period.

But experts say the number does not reflect the real potential of the Kingdom’s fishery sector.

Som Nouv, former deputy director at the Fisheries Administration, said yesterday that the rise is small and does not say anything about the growth of the fishery trade.

“The export increase is only 300 tonnes. This is a very little increase and it does not reflect anything,” he said.

Om Savath, executive director of Fisheries Action Coalition Team, said the disappointing figures are the result of poorly enforced laws designed to stamp out illegal fishing.

“Illegal fishing remains a problem and no matter how many times the government sets legislation, the enforcement lasts only two or three months,” Savath said.

The majority of Cambodia’s fish exports are to Australia, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Last month, the European Union banned fish imports from Cambodia as punishment for the country’s failure to tackle illegal fishing.

Nouv at the time said that the fishing vessels in question, which the EU suspected of fishing illegally, did not belong to Cambodia and that the EU should investigate whether the boats were flying Cambodian flags to avoid punishment.

Savath called Nouv’s response to the ban “not profitable” to Cambodia’s relationship with the EU.

“Cambodia could’ve earned a lot of income by exporting fish products to the EU without paying tax,” he said, referring to the Kingdom’s Everything But Arms status, which allows duty-free exports to EU nations.

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