The waters of the Koh Rong Archipelago may yet receive an additional layer of administrative protection, the Ministry of Environment announced last week, although how the proposed “marine park” will function remains to be seen, stakeholders said yesterday.
Doubling down on a Facebook post by the ministry, Environment Minister Say Samal was quoted in local media yesterday saying that “the government decided to create the Koh Rong Island Park … to manage the natural resources there, and in the near future, [the] ministry will create the first national marine [conservation] park in Cambodia’s history”. Samal ignored multiple requests for comment yesterday.
Currently a 400-square-kilometre Marine Fisheries Management Area (MFMA), administered by the Agriculture Ministry’s Fisheries Administration (FiA) in collaboration with the conservation NGO Fauna & Flora International (FFI) protects the waters around Koh Rong and neighbouring Koh Rong Samloem.
According to the ministry’s original post, which described a meeting between Samal and FFI Country Director Ahab CW Downer, FFI is willing to lend its expertise to the venture. Reached yesterday, Downer referred comments to FFI Coastal and Marine Conservation Project Manager Marianne Teoh.
Teoh said that, for now, FFI’s work on Marine Conservation is limited to working with FiA. “Fisheries Administration and Ministry of Environment I believe are having discussions,” she said.
Currently, the MFMA only has jurisdiction over the waters around the islands, and involving the Environment Ministry could expand much-needed conservation efforts to regulating development on land.
“This could be a way for the ministries to have a more holistic management of the Koh Rong archipelago,” Teoh noted, adding that FFI would look forward to working “with any parties with aligned aims of protecting coastal and marine habitats in Cambodia”.
Deputy FiA Director Ouk Vibol – who heads the MFMA collaboration with FFI – could not be reached. Meanwhile, FiA director Eng Chea San yesterday said he was unaware of the Environment Ministry’s announcement, but said it could be “a better thing” if the ministries worked together.
Chea Sam Ang, of the General Department of Administration for Nature Conservation and Protection within the Ministry of Environment, said the plan would be to incorporate the existing MFMA structure within the new national marine park.