Cambodia’s aquaculture fisheries sector is undergoing rapid transformation. With the help of Japanese technology, the government is navigating the sector to be more sustainable and highly productive in order to meet growing domestic demand.

Fish and the fisheries sector play a vital role in the Cambodian society – it offers livelihoods to millions of people, while fish provides over 80 per cent of animal protein for the people.

With rapid economic development which is bringing profound changes to eating habits in Cambodia coupled with the increasing expatriate community, the demand for marine and fresh water fish is expected to rise significantly.

According to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), about 30 per cent of Cambodia’s population rely on fisheries for their living – directly or indirectly – only second to rice which is the staple diet.

“Cambodians’ lifestyle changed due to the change in the economy and many Cambodians are now focusing on other foods, fresh water and marine fish.

“And more foreigners are coming to Cambodia, especially the Chinese and they are interested in eating marine fish.

“We see there is a demand for fresh and marine fish. For example, there is an increase in the number of Chinese restaurants selling marine fish and Cambodia’s climate is suitable for aquaculture,” Toyama Haruko, senior programme officer (Agricultural and Education Sector) with JICA told The Post.

Cambodians are big fish eaters. Per capita consumption averages about 63 kg, says WordFish, an international non-profit research organisation.

The demand for fish is set to rise further, largely driven by Cambodia’s population growth and the growing number of foreigners in the Kingdom.

The Kingdom’s total fish production was 856,263 metric tonnes in 2017, of which aquaculture production was 206,482 metric tonnes.

Since 2005, on the invitation of the Cambodian government, JICA has been providing technical assistance in seed production, administration and fish disease prevention.

“The Cambodian government requested the Japanese government to [assist] in the breeding of fresh water aquaculture because it is being given higher priority than marine products.

“Then JICA focused in supplying protein for Cambodians in the rural areas and improving their livehoods that was the target,” said Haruko.

Transfer of technology

Haruko: Fisheries sector set for a huge growth.

Cambodians have improved their technique in fresh water aquaculture and they can design their own programme to disseminate techniques or technology to those in the rural areas. The Cambodian government can satisfy the domestic demand for fish in the coming years.

JICA then moved on to share its technology to Cambodian experts in marine aquaculture in 2006.

One of the cornerstone project was the establishment of the Marine Aquaculture Research and Development Center (MARDeC) in 2012, which focused on the development of marine aquaculture seed production techniques. The centre is located in Sihanoukville province.

“JICA supported the transfer of technology through short term trainings,” said Haruko.

Today, Cambodian fish harvesters are learning modern seed breeding techniques, growing small fish, disease management, managing water quality and administration of farms. Endowed with the vast biodiversity of freshwater and marine resources coupled with modern breading techniques, Cambodia could well be set to become a leading fish producer in the region.