Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun held a meeting on Wednesday with the Prek Kampong Smach fisheries management team and advised officials to create a working group to study economic data from the area and promote ecotourism.

Prek Kampong Smach is a stream which flows through six communes in Preah Sihanouk’s Prey Nop district and receives water from 16 tributaries in the surrounding area.

Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall spokesman Kheang Phearum said the region could benefit greatly from an economic and conservation standpoint.

“Chamroeun has instructed officials to set up a working group to share comprehensive ideas based on the study of economic data in order to generate revenue for the protection, conservation and management of the Prek Kampong Smach area.

“The aim is to promote ecotourism projects, enhance the livelihoods of local people and increase the richness of research activities in the region,” he said.

Head of the provincial hall’s public relations and cooperation bureau Prak Visal said the stream, which is more than 10km long, flows to Veal Rinh beach across National Road 3 (Kampot province to Prey Nop district) at Kampong Smach Bridge.

On either side of the road, there are 39 species of mangroves in addition to seagrasses and muddy fields full of birds, which could be used as paddy fields.

“Prek Kampong Smach has a total area of 5,848ha, including 2,879ha of water and 72ha of mud sediment. There are 1,541ha of protected fisheries and 1,356ha designated for multi-purpose use,” Visal said.

Prek Kampong Smach was selected as a Fisheries Management Area with funding from Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) in 2009. The Koh Rong archipelago is the only other official Fisheries Management Area.

However, Preah Sihanouk’s Department of Information said on its Facebook page that the Prek Kampong Smach’s mangrove forests and fisheries face deforestation, floods, illegal fishing, and solid waste disposal as people scramble to claim land on the stream’s edge.

Preah Sihanouk provincial Tourism department director Taing Socheat Kroesna said on Wednesday that a national development policy has helped create more ecotourism sites.

“In the Prek Kampong Smach area, being an ecotourism site has given people the opportunity to sell tourism services in the community. They have stopped destroying natural resources and turned to preservation and conservation, including shrimp farming and other tourist services in the area,” he said.