In an effort to replenish Cambodia’s depleting fish population, the government released millions of baby fish into the country’s waterways Tuesday to mark the first-ever National Fisheries Day, government officials said.
More fisherman have reverted to illegal fishing methods, which has caused the overall fish population to decline, said Nao Thouk, Fisheries Department director at the Ministry of Agriculture. “Now people seem to electrocute fish with batteries because the equipment is cheap and can catch fish very fast,” Nao Thouk said.
Since January, fisheries officials have confiscated and destroyed about 2,000 electrocuting batteries across the country, he said.
In Kompong Speu province alone, 300,000 baby fish entered the canal Tuesday—by Prime Minister Hun Sen himself. The baby fish are kept in nurseries and then shipped to the river. Tuesday was the first day of an annual ban on commercial fishing in provinces along the Tonle Sap.
The ban runs until October. Only subsistence fishing is allowed during the ban.
Last year, the government designated National Fisheries Day in hopes of increasing awareness of the need to conserve Cambodia’s depleted fish population.
In addition to over-fishing, experts say flooded forests, erosion and population growth are diminishing the number of fish in the Tonle Sap area.
The average person living on the Mekong flood plains eats about 60 kg of fish per year, one of the highest rates anywhere in the world, according to a Mekong River Commission report.
The report also noted that fisheries accounted for nearly 12 percent of gross domestic product in 2001, more than both rice production and poultry.