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Fishing communities mobilise to protect their livlihoods

Fishing communities mobilise to protect their livlihoods

All along the coast, communities are in uproar as professional Vietnamese fishermen move in to Cambodian waters, pushing out locals

IN the wake of the shooting death of a fisheries official last month, fishing communities are threatening protests unless authorities address their complaints against illegal fishing by Vietnamese.

"We cannot compete with the Vietnamese boats," said Neak Sen, 39, villager in Koh Troey fishing community in Kampot province's Kampong Bay district, Troey Koh commune. "Our livelihood has been put in question."

Around 40 fishing communities living in Sihanoukville, Kep, Kampot and Koh Kong have announced plans to gather in Kampot province to express their concern over Vietnamese illegally overfishing Cambodian waters.

"The Vietnamese boats are big and have 200 to 300cc of power which allows the Vietnamese to catch up to 1 tonne of seafood in one night," Neak Sen said. "We use only small boats with 24cc of power and we catch less than 100kg of seafood per night."

Moreover, no action has been taken against illegal Vietnamese fishermen who are believed to have been behind the shooting death of a fisheries official on July 16. "No one has arrested the perpetrator yet," Neak Sen said, adding that the protesters will also appeal to the government to find the gunman.

Leng Sarorn, program coordinator for Fisheries Action Coalition Team, an NGO working to protect natural resources along the sea, said that there are between four and six Vietnamese boats fishing in Cambodian waters every night. "Villagers want the Cambodian and Vietnamese authorities to discuss the water boundary," he added.

Thach Khorn, Kampot provincial governor, told the Post by telephone on Wednesday that the protest would be allowed if the villagers demonstrate in accordance with the law. He acknowledged that due to the unclear sea boundary, Vietnamese fishermen were fishing in Cambodian waters and he confirmed that this had caused the shooting incident last month in Kampot.

"We never allowed the Vietnamese to fish here. We will investigate if there are illegal fishermen," he said, adding that people should lodge complaints if they see any illegal fishing.

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