The Council of Ministers on Friday ordered the Tonle Sap Authority to continue clamping down on illegal fishing on the Tonle Sap lake, using tough measures in order to protect the lake’s fisheries and fish habitats.
Council of Ministers Secretary of State Chak Leng, under a recommendation from Prime Minister Hun Sen, signed a government notice endorsing the authority to pursue its recent crackdown on illegal fishing structures.
“[T]he royal government’s order 01 dated May 22, 2011, still has validity to enforce […] in order to protect the Tonle Sap,” the notice said.
It went on to say the government had now “agreed with a request to continue implementing this order in a third phase, […] to follow, prevent and crack down on every offense that could occur in the future.”
Tonle Sap Authority Secretary-General Chan Youttha said Monday that Minister of Water Resources Lim Kean Hor, who heads the authority, had requested to continue the measures indefinitely.
Mr Youttha said the minister deemed the measures necessary to effectively protect the lake and conserve the flooded forest in the lake’s floodplains. In recent years, businessmen have illegally converted tens of thousands of hectares of flooded forest into large-scale rice farms.
Mr Kean Hor recently warned that the lake could turn into an ecological “desert” in a matter of years if its flood plains were not protected.
“Among the two crimes, destruction of flooded forest is more dangerous than illegal fishing,” Mr Youttha said.
Since May, officials have removed thousands of traps on the lake and its tributaries in Kandal, Kompong Cham, Kompong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap provinces.
One arrest was made, and a fisherman from Pursat province is being held in provincial detention in Pursat for allegedly constructing a so-called brush park that lures fish by using cut down flooded forest.
According to the 2006 Fisheries Law, the man could face between one and three years in jail and fines of between 5 million and 50 million riel, or $1,250 and $12,500.