All Tonle Sap Fishing Boats to Be Registered, Minister Says

Officials are drafting a directive that would require all fishing boats in provinces surrounding the Tonle Sap Lake to be registered, an attempt to curb illegal fishing on the sprawling lake as part of a crackdown that started last year.

“All fishermen have to get their boats registered,” Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon said on Tuesday.

Fishermen shovel trey riel, the fish used to make prahok, into buckets to be loaded onto boats on the Tonle Sap River in 2012. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“This is a measure to curb anarchic fishing and track down the fishing boats using illegal gear on the Tonle Sap Lake.”

The directive will require all fishing and transport boats on the Tonle Sap to register with the Public Works and Transport Ministry. Number plates will also have to be affixed to vessels, and the names of their owners recorded, Mr. Sakhon said.

It will also designate which areas of the lake will allow the use of fishing gear and which will be off-limits, seeking to ensure fish can migrate freely, Mr. Sakhon said, adding that sensitive areas like the lake’s bottleneck in Kompong Chhnang province should be off-limits.

The draft is expected to be finalized next week and then brought before an interministerial meeting, Mr. Sakhon said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen authorized Mr. Sakhon in December to mobilize authorities to patrol Cambodia’s largest lake.

He gave the task force access to helicopters, and Interior Minister Sar Kheng later warned that governors of the provinces surrounding the Tonle Sap would lose their jobs if they did not stop illegal fishing.

The task force destroyed more than 100 km of nets and other equipment seized in Kompong Chhnang and Kompong Thom provinces last month.

Minh Bunly, the Tonle Sap program coordinator for Fisheries Action Coalition Team, a coalition of environmental NGOs, hailed the draft directive, but cautioned that if no clear monitoring was put in place it would fail.

Um Meng, a fisherman in Kompong Thom province’s Kompong Svay district, said on Tuesday that registration meant nothing if law enforcement remained weak.

“The important thing is law enforcement. Any fishermen who use illegal fishing gear must be punished,” he said.

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