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B’Bang fishermen decry ‘weak’ crackdown

B’Bang fishermen decry ‘weak’ crackdown

FISHERMEN in Battambang province are accusing the government of going easy on poachers, following what was supposed to have been a joint crackdown last week on illegal fishing.

The fishermen say officials negotiated with the poachers – instead of fining them – after catching roughly 60 illegal fishermen in a two-day sting last week.

“We were very disappointed when the fisheries police stopped us from destroying the illegal fishnets and moved to negotiations with the illegal fishermen,” said Soeung Saran, who represents the fishermen in Kampong Prieng commune, adding that fisheries faced depletion from illegal operations.

Government officials, however, say their actions were intended to preserve a peaceful situation after some 60 poachers brandished knives when confronted by villagers and authorities.

“We need to keep people safe first,” said Heng Pisith, director of the fishery department in Battambang province.

The illegal fishermen, he said, have bigger boats. “If we continue to destroy their illegal fishing nets, they could fight against us, and our people could face danger,” he said.

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