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‘Miscommunication’ sparks increase in fishing crimes

Men fish on a river in Phnom Penh
Men fish on a river in Phnom Penh last year. In 2014, authorities recorded over 4,300 cases of illegal fishing. Heng Chivoan

‘Miscommunication’ sparks increase in fishing crimes

Cases of illegal fishing were on the upswing in 2014, with the Fishery Administration blaming the rise on a lack of communication between its officials, fishermen and local authorities.

At a press conference yesterday to announce the results of a yearlong crackdown on illegal fishing, Nao Thouk, the director of the Fishery Administration, said his department had been hampered by poor communication and cooperation.

According to a report released at the meeting, there were 4,347 cases of illegal fishing over the past 12 months, compared with 3,700 in 2013.

Of the 166 people that were charged with illegal fishing during 2014, 114 were imprisoned, he said, adding that those convicted were fined more than 448 million riel (about $112,000) in total.

Illegal fishing hot spots were in provinces surrounding the Tonle Sap river basin, including Battambang, Siem Reap, Kampong Thom, Pursat, Kampong Chhnang and Kandal, the report revealed.

During the meeting, officials discussed the challenge of bribery, saying military police were known to receive bribes from illegal fisherman in exchange for information about the fishery’s crackdown.

However, Thouk said the allegations were unsubstantiated.

“I overheard people say the administration has taken bribes from illegal fishermen, but we can’t say that without evidence,” he said.

As part of its blitz, the fishery administration destroyed hundreds of thousands of metres of nets as well as trawlers and electro-fishing tools.

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