Most Boat Owners Who Fled Fish Deaths Return

Thirty-five of the 41 fish-farming houseboats that fled the Kilometer 7 area in the capital’s Russei Keo district earlier this month due to massive fish deaths have returned, a district official said on Thursday.

Sou Sorkun, chief of the district’s administration bureau, said only six fish farmers who usually reside in his district chose to remain downriver near central Phnom Penh, because those six boats were larger and they feared losing their stocks.

“The six bigger fish farm boats…are not coming back yet, because they still worry about their thousands of tons of fish,” Mr. Sorkun said.

Boat owners reported black water that smelled strongly of sewage in the Tonle Sap river directly before their fish began dying earlier this month.

While Mr. Sorkun said there were only 41 houseboats affected from the Kilometer 7 area, other reports said scores of boats also fled downstream.

Reporters saw a 5-meter-wide stream of similar black, smelly water flowing into the river several kilometers upriver of the Kilometer 7 area.

The Environment Ministry denied that sewage played a role in the fish deaths, instead blaming climate change.

Mr. Sorkun said it was heavy rains that had killed the fish.

“It’s caused by big rain, he said. “It wasn’t from the sewage.”

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