Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Shrimp farming dead in Koh Kong

Shrimp farming dead in Koh Kong

Shrimp farming dead in Koh Kong

The last shrimp farms in Koh Kong have closed up shop, ending an industry that was

once touted as an easy road to riches for farmers, and economic prosperity for the

region.

Instead, the industry's failure has left a string of bad debts and an environmental

disaster of large areas of mangrove swamps which were cleared for the farms.

The boom time for shrimp farming was 1995-1996. During that period 67 businesses,

mostly using Thai finance, set up breeding ponds, often by clearing large areas of

mangroves in tidal areas.

But by 1998, 57 of the businesses had failed, leaving debts that ran into the tens

of millions of dollars, and employment in the industry had dropped by 90 percent.

By the beginning of this year the remaining 10 shrimp farms had also closed.

The death blow for the industry has been disease, which spreads quickly among the

crustaceans in their over-crowded ponds. Farmers had tried to combat the problem

with massive doses of antibiotics, but this led to problems on neighboring land as

the chemicals seeped into the soil.

Some environmentalists believe that the idea of sustainable shrimp farms is a myth

and say shrimp farming is a "hit and run" or "slash and burn"

activity.

Jim Enright, natural resources manager of the Thai environmental NGO, Yadfon, compared

shrimp farming to "get rich quick" schemes, such as drug trafficking.

"Shrimp farming is still very experimental. We have been farming crops for 10,000

years, but have only been farming shrimp for around 30 years. The fact is, we still

don't know which methods are sustainable," he said.

According to Mangrove Action Project (MAP) newsletters, excessive quantities of fresh

and sea water are needed to operate intensive shrimp ponds. Salt water intrusion

destroys neighboring rice paddies, other crops, and drinking water.

MAP says that to maximize harvests and profits, commercial shrimp ponds are stocked

very densely. Massive amounts of organic waste produced by ponds are simply pumped

into surrounding waterways, killing local flora and fauna. Chemicals and antibiotics

used to prevent disease outbreaks contaminate natural ecosystems and hasten the development

of disease-resistant viruses.

According to Appropriate Technology magazine, both Taiwan and China, two of the former

leading shrimp farming nations, have experienced an "environmental backlash"

on a nationwide scale.

The Sierra Club Canada says the typical shrimp farm company moves on, leaving the

locals to cope with the environmental and socio-economic damage it has caused.

Meanwhile a few farmers like Check Then are trying to make a living using their ponds

to raise wild shrimp. Unlike their commercially bred cousins, the wild shrimp are

thought to be easier to tend and more resistant to disease.

Farmers like Then pump sea water into their ponds and hope it will contain small

shrimp which will mature in the captive environment, but it is a hit-and-miss business.

Without knowing how many shrimp are actually in the ponds it is difficult to calculate

how much food to throw in, or if there is any point in throwing any in at all.

Then's niece said the business was not really profitable, but it generated enough

money to keep the ponds going and pay the workers' salaries.

For the longer term, Then said he was hoping to convert his ponds to other kinds

of aquaculture and would investigate alternatives in Thailand.

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor Wat named as the top landmark for the second year

    Travel website TripAdvisor has named Cambodia’s ancient wonder Angkor Wat as the top landmark in the world for the second year running in their Travelers’ Choice Award 2018, an achievement Cambodian tourism operators expect will attract more tourists to the Kingdom. The website uses traveller

  • Hun Sen detractors ‘will die’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said those who curse or insult him would eventually die without a plot of land to bury their bodies after being killed by lightning, suffering the same fate as those who recently died in Thmar Baing district in Koh

  • Monks given ‘Samdech’ title for contributions

    Three senior monks on Thursday were given the highest-ranking title “samdech”, with Prime Minister Hun Sen saying that the promotions were due to their contributions to Buddhism. The three distinguished monks were promoted on Thursday morning at Botum Vatey pagoda in Phnom Penh, at a

  • Facing possible sanctions, PM criticises Washington’s rights record

    While United States congressmen are discussing the Cambodia Democracy Act and an amendment that could impose more sanctions against Cambodia’s government, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday counterattacked by questioning the respect of human rights and democracy under the US-backed Lon Nol regime, and