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Snakehead fish farms to rely on animal carcasses

Snakehead fish swim in a container at a market in Phnom Penh's Russey Keo district in 2013.
Snakehead fish swim in a container at a market in Phnom Penh's Russey Keo district in 2013. Hong Menea

Snakehead fish farms to rely on animal carcasses

The Fisheries Administration submitted a proclamation on management measures for sustainable snakehead fish farming to the Ministry of Agriculture last week, a member of the Fisheries Administration confirmed yesterday.

The proclamation was sent approximately one month after a joint letter was sent to Prime Minister Hun Sen by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Administration to request a removal of the 2004 ban on farm-raised snakehead fish.

While Hun Sen lifted the ban, it was originally imposed as the result of the mass collection of small fish during the breeding season needed to feed the farm-raised snakehead fish, which was largely seen as destroying the ecological system of local rivers.

According to Hav Viseth, deputy director-general of the Fisheries Administration, the administration has found a form of processed fish food that can be fed to the snakehead fish as an alternative to its natural diet.

“Because of high market demand and a new study that revealed that we can use processed fish food to feed snakehead fish, it was officially approved for farming,” he said.

“[Locally farming snakehead fish] is better than depending on fish from neighbouring countries because snakehead fish farms are a part of our national revenue and provide jobs for citizens,” he said.

He went on to explain that the processed feed will be a combination of small salt water fish, as well as relying on animal carcasses.

“We will announce the procedure of fish farming and provide technical direction to fish farmers on how to feed fish in order to reduce expenses,” Viseth said.

“Fish farmers have to follow the management procedures and not impact the environment or natural resources,” he said, adding that the ban on harvesting small fish during the breeding season would remain in place.

Minh Bunly, program coordinator of the Fishery Action Coalition team in Cambodia, said that in the hard to regulate snakehead industry, lifting the ban would prove problematic.

“It is concerning for the country’s natural resources, especially if the government does not have a strong mechanism in place to stop fish farmers from gathering feed from the Tonle Sap river,” he said.

According to him, if the processed fish food fluctuates in price or is not readably available, fish farmers will resort to harvesting feed illegally.

“If the government cannot produce the processed fish food at a reasonable price, illegal fishing crimes will increase,” he said.

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