About 70 families who live in floating houses along the Tonle Sap river in Kampong Chhnang province say excessive heat and low water levels have resulted in large-scale die-offs on their fish farms.

Van Srey Em, a fishery community representative in both Phsar Chhnang and Khsam communes, said each family has lost between 100 and 200 kilograms of fish over a three-day period beginning Sunday.

Srey Em said the types of fish the communities raise – primarily catfish – are very valuable.

“Those kinds of fish we can sell for the price of $5 per kilogram,” she said. “But the fish that died over a few days caused us to lose an income of at least $500 to $1,000 per family.”

Heng Eang, another community representative who lives in Phsar Chhnang village, said that he lost around 300 kilograms of fish. For the past two years, families have been able to move their fish cages to deeper waters during the dry season to prevent the fish from dying, he said, but that area is in front of the Kampong Chhnang Autonomous Port, which they can no longer access because of development.

Eang on Wednesday called the provincial Fisheries Administration to intervene in the situation to try to save their fish stocks.

“Right now, we have no method to protect or help our fish survive,” he said. “If authorities don’t allow us to move the fish cages and floating houses to that area for living temporarily, we will lose more [fish].”

Som Phirun, director of the Kampong Chhnang Provincial Fisheries Administration, said that he and his officials had visited the affected communities on Tuesday to monitor the situation, provide advice and take measures to protect the fish.

He confirmed waters were only 1.5 to 3 metres deep in the area and that temperatures had reached 40 degrees Celsius, resulting in a lack of oxygen for the fish. “We give them suggestions about three options for them to protect or reduce their fish from dying,” he said.

These included selling the fish now, transferring them to larger cages and using an underwater fan to create oxygen flow, and shuttling back and forth from the shallows to deeper waters.