Fisheries officials have predicted that the quantity of fish this year will decrease more than previous years due to abnormal water levels in the Mekong River and Tonle Sap lake.

Ouch Vutha – the director of the Fisheries Department under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries – told The Post on November 24 that a prolonged drought in the upper part of the Mekong River basin caused the Mekong River to fall, resulting in fish failing to spawn on time.

Even so, he said there would be no shortage of prahok, or fermented fish paste.

Vutha added that the season for producing prahok could be extended to December because the outflow of the Tonle Sap Lake was still obstructed.

Dul Buntha, deputy director of the Fisheries Action Coalition in Kampong Chhnang province’s Cholkiri district, said the drought was brought on by climate change. He added the clearing of flooded forests for farming had ruined the habitats of fish before they could breed.

Kampong Chhnang Fisheries Administration chief Ly La told The Post that fish usually breed between May and June and spawn between July and August, when the Mekong River waters rise and flow into the Tonle Sap Lake. The Tonle Sap Lake provides safe habitats and feeding grounds.

He added the drought this year that made the level of the Mekong River fall was compounded by the construction of the hydropower dams in upriver countries, which created an additional obstacle to fish migration.

“In the past, rain-induced floods, which are favourable to freshwater fish living in lakes, creeks and the Tonle Sap’s tributaries, increased breeding. Without those conditions, the quantity of freshwater fish will not increase this year,” he said.

Studies by specialists from Kandal province and the Phnom Penh Fisheries Administration indicated that fish had gradually moved from lakes and creeks, but were of smaller size and at decreased quantities than previous years.

Phnom Penh Fisheries Administration director Ngin Dy told The Post that the bamboo fish traps, locally known as konlong day trei, are ineffective because of a reduction in fish migration from the Tonle Sap River and its tributaries.

“Due to the current conditions of the Mekong River, the quantity and size of natural fish will decrease more than previous years,” he said.