The Fisheries Administration employed a pair of helicopters on Saturday to search for illegal fishing operations along the shores of Tonle Sap lake, an official said yesterday.
Administration Director Nao Thuok, who joined the search, said the helicopters were used to reach flooded areas that provincial authorities might have had difficulty reaching by land or water.
“We flew over the Tonle Sap lake because we are afraid that our lower officials have failed to crack down on illegal fishing,” he said.
Though some fisheries continued operating illegally after the commercial fishing season came to an end June 1, Mr Thuok estimated that only 10 percent of these operations remained. The area’s spawning season ends next month.
He said that since June authorities had arrested 54 fishermen, confiscated 8,000 batteries allegedly used to electrocute fish and seized a million meters of fishing net.
Mr Thuok said the results of Saturday’s aerial inspection would be passed on to local authorities shortly and warned that administration officials who failed to crack down on illegal fishing operations would be suspended. He said three officials had been suspended already, pending their investigation but offered no details about these cases.
Ky Sovannarith, chief of the Fisheries Administration cantonment covering Kompong Thom province, said authorities had stopped some 300 cases of illegal fishing in the province already this year. “If we compare to last year, we have been more successful in cracking down on illegal fishing,” he said.
Um Meng, a fisherman in Kompong Thom, hailed the government’s actions, hoping they would spare the area’s smaller fish and give them time to mature and breed.
“I think this year’s crackdown is tougher [than last year’s] because fisheries officials have acted seriously,” he said. “Despite the crackdown, however, the fish stocks have declined because of the low water levels of the Tonle Sap lake.”