Illegal Fishing Task Force for Tonle Sap Lake Claims Success

A government task force set up to curb illegal fishing on the Tonle Sap lake has confiscated more than 60 boats, seized thousands of meters of illegal fishing nets and arrested dozens of fishermen during its four-month campaign, the National Police reported on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen created the task force in December to crack down on rampant illegal fishing on the lake, made Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon the leader of the group and provided a helicopter to help survey the area.

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Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Agriculture Ministry officials meet in Phnom Penh on Wednesday to discuss the ongoing crackdown on illegal fishing on the Tonle Sap lake. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Between December 8 and Monday, authorities stopped 730 cases of illegal fishing on the sprawling lake and apprehended 36 people who were later sent to the courts, according to a report posted on the National Police website on Wednesday. No details of any charges or convictions were provided.

The report also said that 64 fishing boats were impounded, four pieces of prohibited electric fishing equipment and 43 batteries were seized, and about 22 tons of live fish were released into the lake.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng met with officials from the Agriculture Ministry on Wednesday in Phnom Penh to discuss how to continue the efforts, Agriculture Ministry spokesman Lord Reasmey said.

He said officials were amending the fisheries law, but declined to elaborate on the details or when they would be finalized, citing ongoing discussions.

Early last month, Mr. Sakhon announced officials were drafting a directive requiring all fishing boats in provinces surrounding the lake to be registered. The directive has not been released.

In December, Mr. Kheng warned the governors of provinces bordering the Tonle Sap that they would lose their jobs if they did not put a stop to illegal fishing in their provinces.

Minh Bunly, Tonle Sap program coordinator for Fisheries Action Coalition Team, a group of environmental NGOs, said on Wednesday that he was concerned illegal fishing might resurface next month when authorities were occupied in the run-up to the June 4 commune elections.

“Now, the working groups are enforcing the law without favoring anyone,” Mr. Bunly said. “But if they are busy with politics work in May, illegal fishing may come back.”

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