The seasonal ban on commercial fishing is scheduled to be lifted in just four weeks—but fishermen apparently can’t wait. Provincial officials say illegal fishing has taken a sharp upturn in recent weeks.
Common strategies include electrocuting fish with batteries and using huge bamboo gates to trap fish, a Battambang fisheries official said, calling the amount of illegal fishing “alarming.”
Chin Sokhon, director of the Agriculture Department for Kandal province, agreed that illegal fishing has increased, despite illegal attempts to crack down.
Fishermen in Kandal are using hundreds of meters of illegal nets to catch fish, especially in Lvea Em district, he said. “It is hard to stamp out illegal fishing here, because fishermen do not understand the effects of the loss of fish,” he said.
Takeo provincial Governor Kep Chutema said he ordered a crackdown last Friday in which boats and unauthorized equipment were seized. He said he suspected some local officials were allowing commercial fishermen to fish illegally in public waters.
The provincial officials said illegal activity often occurred in forested areas where it was difficult to enforce the ban.
The ban runs from June 1 until the end of September—a breeding period when only subsistence fishing is allowed. Fisheries officials and experts have said that over-fishing, underwater deforestation, erosion and population growth are diminishing fish stock in the Tonle Sap, costing millions of dollars in lost revenue.