The Stung Treng Provincial Court has placed a man in pre-trial detention for using illegal fishing equipment in the Mother Fish Conservation Area, an official from the provincial Fisheries Administration said on January 26.
Srey Sam Vichet, head of the provincial Fisheries Administration, told The Post that the man had been charged with illegal fishing. He was identified as 37-year-old Dith Sithong, a resident of Sekong commune’s Don Long village in Siem Pang district.
“The suspect was arrested last Wednesday while fishing in the conservation area along the Sekong River in the village. He was using electric shock devices,” he said.
Officers of the Fisheries Administration – joined by fishing community members and Sekong commune authorities – arrested the suspect. They seized evidence including seven thicklip barbs weighing over 12kg, batteries, electric shock devices with cables and a fishing boat, he added. The thicklip barb is an endangered species.
“The court ordered the temporary detention of the suspect at Stung Treng provincial prison on charges of fishing using electric shocks under Article 98 of the fisheries law,” he said.
Under Article 98, a first offence carries a sentence of three to five years in prison. Evidence of the offending will be confiscated as state property or destroyed.
Sam Vichet said that fishing offences have been taking place in the conservation area and the Anglong dolphin pool recently. The offending is causing concern because of the number of species living in the area that are on the brink of extinction. The thicklip barb, bangana behri, giant Mekong catfish, and the Irrawaddy dolphin – all classed as vulnerable or endangered – all inhabit the area.
He added that in early January, both villagers and Fisheries Administration officials found a dolphin tangled in a net. This was thought to be the last dolphin from the pool in O’Svay Sen Chey district’s Preah Rumkel commune.
“According to dolphin conservation officials and international dolphin experts, a dolphin entangled in a net will not be able to live long and there is no way to save it,” he said.
He called on authorities and the local population to work together in the protection of freshwater fish resources in the region, by putting a stop to the use of illegal fishing equipment and all fishing in protected areas.