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WCS Cambodia creates community fisheries to recruit local patrol teams

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Fishing boats dock along the Sre Ambel riverbank in Koh Kong province. Heng Chivoan

WCS Cambodia creates community fisheries to recruit local patrol teams

Early this month, the Koh Kong provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS Cambodia) agreed to establish five new community fisheries in Koh Kong province’s eastern Sre Ambel district.

The agreement is to allow fishermen to join the department in conserving fisheries resources in localities. Today, there are 10 community fisheries in Koh Kong and Preah Sihanouk provinces.

Koh Kong provincial fisheries specialists and WCS Cambodia employees will brief the community fishermen on the principles, skills and new knowledge they need.

Provincial agriculture department director Y Meng Leang said on December 9 that late last month, the department helped community fishermen to submit letters applying for legal patrolling status to the ministry.

He said fisheries specialists have been patrolling the new community fisheries since early this month. With the completed groundwork by the specialists, local fishermen will begin to take part in patrolling the main target areas as planned.

“Community members [fishermen] have no right to arrest offenders. However, they can help [fisheries] specialists by providing information on illegal activities to the judicial police for them to carry out crackdowns. They are residents, so they should be the first to know [or hear of any fishing] offences,” Meng Leang said.

On December 9, WCS Cambodia programme director Ken Sereyrotha said the establishment of community fisheries is part of the “Partners Against Wildlife Crime” project.

The project is co-funded by EU, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, US Forest Service and Rainforest Trust.

He said new fisheries are geared towards enabling local fishermen to play a more active role in protecting fisheries resources, especially the conservation of Royal Turtles (Batagur affinis) and Siamese crocodiles.

Another goal is to improve the living standards of these fishermen.

“Once the legal documents for these community fisheries have been issued, [officials] will mark their boundaries. Each community will send these documents to the agriculture ministry to be officially listed in its database by early next year,” he said.

Tonh Pov, head of the recently established Bak Angrut fishing community in Koh Kong province, said on December 9 that he is happy to lend a helping hand in conserving natural resources within his community.

He added that having gained approval from the provincial fisheries department, his group had joined fisheries enforcement officers in patrolling target areas multiple times and spotted many fishing offences. Pov’s community patrol team burned some tools used for illegal fishing activities.

“Before patrolling the target areas, WCS Cambodia employees and fisheries officials briefed the group about procedures of patrolling the forest and waterways.

“They also taught us about the work of conserving natural resources. Besides the patrols, we joined the officers in disseminating natural resources conservation knowledge to other villagers,” he said.

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