Cambodia Faces Possible Food Crisis: ‘Water But No Fish’

Tonle Sap Lake provides more than 70% of the nation’s protein but a growing population, changes to the lake’s unusual seasonal rise and fall, dams and illegal fishing practices may combine this year to mean a smaller than usual catch, and higher.

For centuries, Cambodians have looked to Tonle Sap, both a river and a lake, for dinner. But a repast of grilled river fish, sprinkled with salt and stuffed with lemongrass, may soon be a very special event.

Today, “there is only water but no fish,” said Nan Sok, 60, gazing at Tonle Sap Lake from his house on the outskirts of the capital city of Phnom Penh.

A Cambodian Muslim fisherman, he recalled that in 1979 he could “catch the fish just by dipping my hand in the water there were so many. … But now even if I use a big net for a whole day, there would be nothing.”

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