The government will begin issuing licenses for harvesting Catfish fingerlings, a practice that has been banned since 1994, Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun told National Assembly members Tuesday.
Fishermen will now be allowed to fish for the two smaller species of catfish, called pra’chao and pra’msao, as long as they can afford the government’s fees. However, lawmakers protested that this would allow wealthy fishing companies to monopolize the catfish harvest. Lawmakers suggested that the larger fishing companies be banned from catching the fingerlings, and that harvesting them should be limited to subsistence fishermen and families.
The government had allowed the fishing of fingerlings from 1989 to 1994, but during that period uncontrolled illegal fishing threatened their survival as a species in Cambodia.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Lim Sokun criticized the decision of the government, saying that the continued harvesting of the fingerlings will deplete the stock of the fish in Cambodia.
“If the government allows only the rich people to fish, the poor Cambodians who live on fishing will have a problem, they will have nothing to eat, because the fish will disappear,” Lim Sokun said. Chan Sarun defended the decree, saying that the decision is a positive one because the fishing will create more jobs for Cambodians and revenue for the country. “If the fishermen do not catch the fingerlings,” he added, “they will disappear anyway because the fish will die of natural causes or migrate to Vietnam, where fishing for them is not banned.”
The fingerlings typically migrate to the Mekong Delta after they are born. Before 1994, 4,000 tons of the fingerlings were exported to Vietnam, Chan Sarun said. “When we stopped catching them, Cambodia had to import the fish from Vietnam,” he said.