Cambodian authorities intervened in far fewer illegal fishing cases last year compared with 2012, when Prime Minister Hun Sen first banned commercial angling nationwide in a bid to replenish waterways and aid small-scale fishermen.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, which released an annual report on Friday, there were 3,802 cases in which authorities “cracked down” on the practice last year, down from 5,307 in 2012.
Some of the decline, however, may be connected to the simple fact that the ban was handed down in March 2012, leaving the government fewer months to enforce the directive, which excluded fishing for lobster and linh, the small fish used in the making of prahok.
Regardless of the drop, Hun Sen, who presided over the meeting at Chaktomuk hall, was unsatisfied, and urged those in attendance to confront the problem more aggressively.
“Since the government cancelled fishing lots to provide for residents, we still have illegal fishing. So today, I suggest all to strengthen the crackdown on illegal fishing to defend our natural resources,” he said.
The overwhelming majority of the government’s enforcement efforts never reached the level of an arrest. The fisheries administration fined violators a total of $39,345 last year, and seized large amounts of fishing equipment, including nets, electronic devices, 120 motorised boats and 55 smaller skiffs, according to the report. Ninety-six of the 3,802 cases actually made it to court, but only 51 were jailed over the practice.
The report did not provide comparable 2012 data for arrests and court cases.
Since the ban, 158 commercial lots totalling 953,861 hectares have been cancelled. Of those, most were freed up for subsistence fishing, while a little less than 98,000 hectares were set aside as conservation areas.
Local production has increased dramatically, according to the report, which said fishermen netted 718,000 tons in 2013, compared to 360,000 tons in 2012.
Noa Thouk, head of the Cambodian Fisheries Administration, said despite the admirable results, the government was far from obtaining its goals.
“We cannot stop illegally fisheries 100 per cent. We still have illegal fisheries even with the official effort to crack down on them,” he said.