Fisheries offences in the flooded forests around the Tonle Sap Lake, including those involving illegal nets and electric shock devices, persist despite an uptick in law enforcement pursuits.
Ung Try, deputy director of the Fisheries Administration (FiA) under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, told The Post that in the first 10 months of the year, in collaboration with the provincial forces around the Tonle Sap Lake, FiA officials seized 64,020sqm of illegal fishing nets, 111 vessels of varying sizes and “many” electric shock devices.
“Authorities charged 58 suspects and sent them to court. Of these, 26 have so far been sentenced to one to three years in prison, each charged under Article 89 of the Fisheries Law,” he said.
According to Try, since Prime Minister Hun Sen issued his March instruction to prosecute fisheries crimes more vigorously, Pursat province has been the most active. Twenty suspects were sent to court, with 14 receiving jail terms. Siem Reap authorities were close behind, with 23 arrests, but only six prison sentences ordered.
Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Thom provinces were also successful in their efforts, with four and three charges which resulted in jail terms respectively.
Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces produced noticeably fewer arrests and convictions, but put this down to more aggressive prevention strategies. A significant amount of illegal fishing equipment was seized.
Battambang Fisheries Administration Cantonment director Chuong Sophea said that despite strict and regular crackdowns, these crimes are still occurring. He called for the participation of local communities in reducing these activities.
“Without the participation of the public in promptly reporting the activities of the perpetrators – as well as their locations – the authorities will not be able to suppress all of these crimes. If fisheries crimes increase, we will lose more of our precious fishery resources,” he added.
He said that he expected the prahok season to begin as planned in early December, provided there were no significant disruptions.