Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Illegal fishing battle heats up

Illegal fishing battle heats up

An illegal fisherman sits in a Kampong Chhnang police station with his fishing equipment after being apprehended last week
An illegal fisherman sits in a Kampong Chhnang police station with his fishing equipment after being apprehended last week. Photo Supplied

Illegal fishing battle heats up

When authorities in Kampong Chhnang province on Friday encountered and pursued the boat of alleged illegal fisherman Chieb Ou, they couldn’t have expected to find themselves being chased instead.

But that’s precisely what happened when, rather than surrendering, the 42-year-old suspect turned his boat towards the pursuing officers and attempted to ram their vessel, deputy provincial fisheries chief Seng Bun Chhern said.

The authorities were forced to flee to safety, eventually returning with 12 men in five boats to take Ou into custody for allegedly fishing with banned electric equipment.

“We never go to crack down alone, because it is dangerous on the river or lake when we meet illegal fishing groups,” Chhern said. “They seem crueller than in the past, and they dare to fight back against us, so we have to come in a group for safety.”

According to a report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) obtained yesterday, arrests for illegal fishing are up to 1,100 in the first six months of 2014, a 50 per cent increase from the 732 cases in the same period last year.

Meanwhile, Chhern said yesterday that illegal fishermen are becoming more brazen than ever, and the MAFF says new measures are in the works, with the aim of both protecting authorities’ safety and increasing their effectiveness.

In November, two police officers drowned while in pursuit of illegal fishermen in Kampong Chhnang province.

More recently, a commune police chief in Kampong Cham province’s Srey Santhor district disappeared last month while investigating illegal fishing in some nearby Mekong wetlands. His body was later discovered with knife wounds to the head. Three suspects were arrested earlier this month in connection with the death.

Minister of Agriculture Ouk Rabun indicated in the MAFF report that the recent deaths were part of the motivation to bolster enforcement efforts, particularly by building new patrol stations with the aim of encouraging officers to work in groups rather than going out on the Kingdom’s waterways alone.

“The ministry will build 16 patrol stations in conservation areas in some provinces for effective illegal fishing crackdowns, and we will urge officials to keep themselves safe during any crackdown,” he was quoted as saying.

Sao Kosal, deputy director of the provincial fisheries administration, said that despite the apparent increase in resistance from illegal fishermen, “it is our obligation to crackdown on illegal action in fisheries to increase fishery income”.

Indeed, the rise in arrests has also meant an increase in revenues, with the government collecting almost $490,000 from fines in the first six months of 2014, compared with about $350,000 last year.

Oum Chhim, a representative of the fishery community in Siem Reap province, said yesterday that the government’s annual months-long spawning season ban on fishing in certain areas – which began in June – was unlikely to deter illegal fishermen.

“Our group will patrol to investigate illegal fishing in the ban season,” he said. “There is still illegal fishing, even though the government called on them to stop.”

MOST VIEWED

  • LPG gas explosion injures 13 people, including foreigners, in Siem Reap

    An explosion on Wednesday at a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) car and tuk-tuk refuelling station in Siem Reap city has left 13 people, including an American and a Briton, suffering burns. The seven most severely burned, including a provincial police officer, were sent to a Thai

  • Over 100 Chinese nationals to be deported for online scam

    The Ministry of Interior is planning to deport 128 Chinese nationals after they were arrested in Preah Sihanouk province on Wednesday for their alleged involvement in an online money extortion scam. Y Sokhy, the head of the Department of Counter-terrorism and Transnational Crime, told The Post

  • More than 800 people test positive for HIV in 2018

    The National Aids Authority (NAA) said more than 800 people tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) last year, joining over 76,000 others aged between 15 and 49 in the Kingdom already infected with the virus. The spread of HIV/AIDS in the Kingdom is showing few signs of

  • Rainsy vow to return on Nov 9 dismissed as ‘political warfare’

    An announcement from the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) that its “acting president” Sam Rainsy would return to the Kingdom on November 9 was dismissed on Sunday as “political warfare”. The CNRP made the announcement on Friday after a permanent committee meeting chaired by