THE Fisheries Administration released new figures yesterday showing that officials had quadrupled efforts to tackle illegal fishing activities in the first half of the year compared with the same period in 2009.
Nao Thuok, the director of the Fisheries Administration, said 1,772 incidents of illegal fishing were uncovered from January to June, a figure he said was “around four times as much” as the same period last year.
“We filed 107 cases to the court, and 38 perpetrators were sentenced to jail,” he said. “But some of the complaints have not yet been sent to trial.”
He said more than 321,000 metres of fishing nets,140 fish and crab traps “and other fishing equipment” had been confiscated and destroyed this year, although he could not give concrete statistics for illegal fishing violations.
“We have currently deployed our officers to fight and ban illegal fishing operations, after we received reports from people that perpetrators try to catch fish around the Tonle Sap lake at night,” he said.
“They catch about a tonne of fish a night each during the banned season.”
But Um Meng, chief of Phat Sanday Fishery Community in Kampong Thom province’s Kampong Svay district, said poorer fishermen were bearing the brunt of the crackdown whereas rich fish traders were able to afford the punishments meted out by the authorities.
“We ask them to forgive the poor families who just fish so they can eat, but not to make exceptions for the rich who fish for trade,” he said.
The community sent a letter to National Assembly President Heng Samrin last month asking for intervention, he said.
Nao Thuok said he would travel to the province on Saturday with members of the National Assembly in order to inspect the situation.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SUN MESA