Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch said that when officials released 1,000 fish recently, it was just for publicity and that the fish population in Cambodia would only increase if the authorities implemented the law on fisheries properly.

“No need to release fish and take pictures of them. Just respect and apply the law on fisheries properly. Don’t allow the wrong nets, off-season fishing and all kinds of things to stun the fish. And the people living on the river must come up and live on the land, then the fish in our country will grow and there will be plenty of fish to eat,” Touch said in a Facebook post on March 12.

Last week, some officials and fisheries experts released more than 1,000 large fish into the Tonle Sap Lake in Siem Reap province to bolster the population of endangered species like the Mekong giant catfish.

Touch could not be reached for comment on March 13.

But he has said that in order to preserve the natural resources of the lake for future generations, it was necessary to properly implement the fisheries laws.

“Stop cutting down flooded forests, preserve them. Don’t just say it. We must do it for the next generation, for our race, for our history, for our children . . .,” he said in an interview filmed on March 10.

In a Facebook post on March 2, Touch also said that he and officials from the South Tonle Sap Fisheries Administration Inspectorate had spent the previous night observing the lake and witnessed illegal use of electricity to shock fish and use of illegal nets, but their boats were too slow to catch the outlaw fishermen.

“On the afternoon of March 2 we discovered the hiding place of the outlaw fishing crew in Kampong Luong commune of Pursat province’s Krakor district. We confiscated their boats and electrical fishing equipment,” he said.

“You came to live in my land and you became rich in my country – so why are you destroying the fish in my river? Using electric fishing equipment and a speedboat in a 60sqm area with a net and dragging in all the fish and turning the small fish you can’t use into fertiliser is illegal. How can I tolerate your actions?” he said.

He posted another message on March 9, thanking the Inspectorate and Pursat provincial authorities for cracking down on illegal fishing in the lake.

“This is a really good gesture that our authorities have cooperated together,” he wrote.