Illegal Fishing Methods Threaten Mekong, Tonle Sap Spawning Grounds

Illegal fishing in Stung Treng prov­ince poses a serious threat to spawn­ing grounds for barb fish in the Mekong River and Tonle Sap, as well as the endangered Mekong gouramy, fisheries expert Touch Seang Tana said.

Fishermen are employing illegal fishing techniques within the Ram­sar region of the Mekong River in Stung Treng, a spawning and breeding region for many kinds of barbs, Touch Seang Tana, head of the government’s commission for dolphin conservation, said Tuesday.

The Ramsar region is also a popular migratory region for the Irra­waddy dolphin and is currently un­der control of the Ministry of Envi­ronment, Touch Seang Tana noted.

“Poor fishermen throw gren­ades into the water to catch fish, and the situation is not good there,” he said. “They use electric batteries to kill the fish, and nobody can stop them.”

He added that if swift action is not taken soon to halt the illegal fishing, the catch of the Mekong barb—locally known as Trey Pas­ey—would decline significantly next year.

About 10 tons of Trey Pasey are harvested in Stung Treng each year, out of a total of 50 to 100 tons of fish, he said.

Trey Pasey, which is only found in Stung Treng province, spawns in the Ramsar region every February and is a delicacy popular in expensive restaurants in Phnom Penh, he added.

The illegal fishing techniques al­so threaten the endangered Me­kong gouramy, a large ray-like fish, and the Trey Pruol, a species of barb that swims up to the Ramsar region to spawn in June and July, Touch Seang Tana said.

Yen Run, coordinator for the Culture and Environment Preser­vation Association in Stung Treng, confirmed Tuesday that fishermen were employing illegal techniques such as grenade fishing in the upstream Mekong waters.

“We taught people not to use gre­nades or electric batteries to catch fish. But a few people still use [them],” Yen Run said.

Long Phal, Stung Treng’s first deputy governor, said Wednes­day that his authorities have made various crackdowns on illegal fishing, adding that he plan­ned to examine the situation more closely.

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