Kratie provincial authorities have referred two suspects to court for illegally fishing the Mekong River during the fishing ban, which was implemented on June 1 and is in force until the end of September, seizing more than 50,000 sqm of fishing nets.
Mok Ponlok, director of the provincial Fisheries Administration, told The Post on August 10 that since the ban on fishing was enforced, authorities have cracked down on about 100 cases of illegal fishing on the river.
Authorities have also confiscated large nets which were placed along a conservation area and removed a large number of bamboo traps and some fishing hooks.
“Two suspects were sent to the provincial court for electrocuting fish and using illegal nets,” he said.
He said illegal fishing along both the Mekong River and the lake had decreased in Kratie province thanks to 11 guard stations manned by 44 members guarding the Mekong River Dolphin Conservation and Fisheries Biodiversity Area.
They have cooperated with fisheries officials, armed forces, local authorities and communities to patrol areas to prevent and crack down on crime.
“Offences have decreased in our area, especially in Anlong Kampi Irrawaddy Dolphin Conservation Area where many dolphins live and congregate,” Ponlok said. “We are very careful with this area because this is where dolphins live and breed. So we guard it carefully.”
According to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS Cambodia), the joint patrol team had conducted a campaign along the river from Kratie to Stung Treng provinces.
The campaign aimed to crack down on illegal fishing which poses a threat to the survival of the critically endangered Cantor’s giant softshell turtle that lives in the area.
“Illegal fishing activities normally increase during the fishing ban period,” WCS said.
As of July 30, the patrol team has covered 4,206km travelling up and down the 48km stretch of the river from Kratie province’s Sambour district to Siem Bouk district of Stung Treng.
In the same period, the patrol team found and confiscated 130 pieces of illegal fishing equipment and destroyed 35 sets of fishing nets.
WCS country director Ken Serey Rotha told The Post on August 10 that his organisation did not crack down on crime but supported the implementation of technical laws and training for local communities and the Fisheries Administration.
Although fisheries offenses have dropped in the past, Serey Ratha observed that it is now starting to increase.
“There is a connection with illegal fishing and the Covid-19 pandemic. We have noticed that it’s active again because some people have lost their jobs and have turned to fishery crimes,” he said.