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Poor fishing season in sight

A fisherman in Khsach district, Kandal
A fisherman in Khsach district, Kandal. Less flooding and illegal fishing have dampened estimates for the next fishing harvest. Heng Chivoan

Poor fishing season in sight

Less flooding and illegal fishing activities have dampened estimates for the country’s upcoming fishing harvest, officials and industry representatives say.

Due to less flooding, this year’s total catch is expected to equal or even fall short of last year’s total of 700,000 tonnes, Nao Thuok, director general at the Fisheries Administration, said yesterday.

“It is likely that number of fish catches will remain the same as last year or maybe a very slight decrease because less flooding means less fish eggs are able to hatch,” he said.

“The flooding period is also the period that fishes hatch from their eggs.”

Thouk said about 400,000 tonnes of Cambodian fish is expected to make it to export in 2014, with the remaining for domestic consumption.

Last year’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ annual report showed 718,000 tonnes of fish were caught and sold in 2013, of which 73 per cent came from fresh water and 14 per cent from sea water.

About 12 per cent of the Kingdom’s fish production comes from aquaculture operations.

Fishing season starts in early October for areas north of Phnom Penh, in the south, fishing season has just started this month. The season will run until the end of May.

Nor Ryas, a fisherman licensed to operate along a one -kilometre stretch of the Mekong River on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, said the catch so far this year has been less than expected.

“This time last year, in the worst case I would catch 10 kilograms of fish in a day, but now I am lucky to catch three kilograms of fish,” she said.

Dai – or fish net – owners like Ryas are required to pay around $10,000 in tax every fishing season, which allows them to fish within a one-kilometre radius of their dai operation.

“I do not have much hope in getting profits this year as there was a smaller flood compared to last year,” Ryas said.

Ryas added that her dwindling catch is also the direct result of illegal fishing activities near the Tonle Sap region.

Ryas called on the Fisheries Administration and police authorities to take firmer action against illegal or non-licensed fishermen.

Sen Mat, also a licensed fisherman along the Mekong River rallied Ryas’s concerns, saying his daily catch has declined noticeably compared to last year’s season.

“I have barely caught 10 kilograms of fish in 24 hours on average this year, while last season I could catch almost 60 kilograms,” he said.

Sen Mat said illegal fishermen using “improper” fishing equipment are to blame.

“Less fish means I will lose money, but what can I do? I still have to pay tax even if I lose money,” he said.

The Fisheries Administration’s Nao Thouk admitted that illegal fishing continues to plague the industry’s growth, however said the number of reported cases has decreased.

“Illegal fishing activity is decreasing both in term of cases and scale.” he said.

“Cases have declined from 3,800 cases last year to 2,500 cases in the first ten months of this year. The government has taken the issue seriously,” he said.

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