Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday ordered the closure of 35 private fishing lots skirting the Tonle Sap lake after recent reports showed widespread use of illegal fishing traps in five provinces.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony for the completion of part of National Road 1 in Kandal province, Mr Hun Sen said that a report carried out last month by Bin Chhin, one of Cambodia’s 10 deputy prime ministers, showed that the use of illegal fishing techniques was widespread despite efforts by authorities to crack down on illicit activities.
“I am shocked with the report on the Tonle Sap lake, and the report should be publicized to make people understand,” Mr Hun Sen said. “I demand the withdrawal of 35 fishing lots. If not, we won’t be able to restore the Tonle Sap.”
The 35 fishing lots are situated in Siem Reap, Kompong Thom, Battambang, Kompong Chhnang and Pursat provinces. The Prime Minister’s order comes after fisheries officials in June began a large-scale crackdown on illegal fishing structures in provinces around the Tonle Sap lake.
And in a May 22 directive from Mr Hun Sen, fishermen were given two weeks’ notice to remove all traps in or near the Tonle Sap tributaries or face legal action and the ruin of the structures.
But Mr Hun Sen said yesterday that no arrests would be made. “Fishery officials and fishing lot owners—you are lucky not to be arrested,” he said, adding that the government would consider reopening the lots after three years.
Kompong Thom governor Chhun Chhorn said that there were six fishing lots in his province and that he would shut them down once he received written confirmation.
“This is a major issue. In the future, if we don’t strictly control [the fisheries], it will become anarchy,” he said.
Minh Bunly, coordinator for the Fisheries Action Coalition Team, said that while the decision to shut the fishing lots was positive, the area remained at risk.
“This is just one success,” he said.