Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Officials say illegal fishing down from last year due to education

Officials say illegal fishing down from last year due to education

Officials say illegal fishing down from last year due to education

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Fishermen ply the waters of the Tonle Sap river on Tuesday in Phnom Penh.

But fishermen say statistics don't account for corruption among police.

THE Ministry of Agriculture said Tuesday that offseason illegal fishing has declined compared with last year's numbers - a direct result, it said, of increased education and training.

Fishing is banned in Cambodia between June 1 and October 1 in order to allow fish to breed. "Fishermen now understand the impact of overfishing during the spawning season," said Nao Thuok, director of the ministry's Fisheries Administration.

One illegal fishing method used year-round involves connecting cables to a portable battery. The cables are then submerged in water,
electrocuting all marine life. Some 2,249 people have voluntarily surrendered their cables so far this year, Nao Thuok said. Fisheries authorities have also collected 57,621 metres of fishing nets and 719 trawling nets.

Since the ban began in June, fisheries authorities have reported 1,494 cases of illegal fishing, compared with "around 2,000" for the same period last year, Nao Thuok said.

But there are doubts about whether the figures are accurate. Ek Chamroeun, Tonle Sap area coordinator for environmental group Fisheries Action Coalition Team, accused police and fisheries authorities of taking bribes from people fishing illegally.

Ban Tign, a 20-year-old fisherman from Pursat, said police who confiscate fishing boats will typically return the boats if their owners pay a bribe.

"On Sunday, they arrested me and confiscated my two trawling boats, but they returned one boat to me for US$150," he said.

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