Cambodia, in collaboration with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), is strengthening local fisheries resources through the construction of two new fishways in Pursat province to facilitate fish life cycles, which will in turn lead to an increase in stocks.
In an August 30 statement, USAID said that with the two new fish passes, fish and other aquatic organisms in Cambodia will be able to travel upstream and bypass irrigation structures, increasing the amount of fish available to local communities in Pursat.
The fishways, whose construction finished on August 24, will also connect fish with critical upstream habitats vital to their life cycle. They demonstrate that small-scale fishways are a feasible, inexpensive solution to the problem of declining fish stocks, it added.
USAID Cambodia acting mission director Rebecca Black said locally-caught fish serve as a key source of food for many Cambodians.
“By protecting fish populations and their habitats, we hope these fishways will also contribute to improved health for the communities that depend on them,” she said.
The new Pursat fishways are part of a regional Fish Passage Initiative, supported in partnership with Cambodia’s Fisheries Administration (FiA), the Mekong River Commission (MRC), Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Centre, Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research, and Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, according to the statement.
The FiA partnered with USAID to build two previous demonstration fish passes in 2019 and 2021. Monitoring of those sites demonstrated that over a million fish representing more than 100 species used the fishways to access over 2,000km of previously unreachable habitat.
USAID and partner organisations visited the newly-constructed fishways on August 29 to discuss the benefits of the project with local leaders and promote the development of a comprehensive plan for fish passage throughout Cambodia and the region.
The five-year initiative, part of the USAID’s Smart Infrastructure for the Mekong programme, has assisted Lower Mekong countries in the inventory and prioritisation of barriers to fish passage, training on fish passage design and engineering, and coordination between irrigation departments and fisheries authorities throughout the Lower Mekong region, to address this transboundary challenge.