As the second part of the prahok-making season got underway this week, fishery experts said yesterday the catch of Trey Riel, the small fish used to make the pungent fish paste, was up this season and that they expected the total fresh water catch to increase sharply this year.
Nao Thuok, director general of the Cambodian Fisheries Administration, said that last weekend the small fish had again started their mass exodus, which occurs around the time of a full or nearly full moon in the months of December and January.
“There are now a lot of fish in the water, but because of rains [last week], the fishermen could not catch them well,” Mr Thuok said, adding he expected the total Trey Riel catch to be between 15,000 and 16,000 tons, up by around 20 percent from last season. He said that during the first part of the prahok-making period in December, between 6,000 and 7,000 tons of the small fish had been caught.
Mr Thuok went on to predict that Cambodia’s entire fresh water catch in 2010 would total around 500,000 tons, up from 400,000 tons last year.
“This year the fresh water will increase 20 percent compared to last year,” he said, adding he foresaw this increase because of favorable flooding and weather conditions and a government crackdown on illegal fishing during the breeding season. “The Fisheries Department protected 500 conservation areas and planted more than 400 hectares of flooded forest,” he said.
Minh Bunly, Tonle Sap Lake Program Coordinator for the NGO Fisheries Action Coalition Team, said the fish population had increased in the lake due to enforcement of the fishing ban. Mr Bunly said in all provinces around the lake “reports from local communities and fishermen say some types of fish have increased.”
Keo Ratha, who fishes on the lake in Pursat province’s Krakor district said, “Here fish increased compared to the last two years, [then] we caught only 10 kilo per day, now we catch 50 kilo.”
Morm Sarat said the fish catch in Kompong Thom province’s Santuk district had improved this year around the lake because of prevention of illegal fishing and protection of local flooded forests.
At Chraing Chamreh I commune’s fish landing in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district however, business was still very quiet yesterday, as local fishermen and traders said little Trey Riel catch had come in so far.
Mann Sothat, 35, who makes prahok on site at the landing, said he produced around 200 tons of the paste per year, but this year he had only made 50 tons in December. “You know in the last three years I have no free time during the good fish catch, but right now I have time to watch TV,” he said.