Kampot Fishers Upset by Vietnamese Trawlers Turn to Premier

Fisherman in Kampot province disappointed by the alleged inaction of local authorities have sent Prime Minister Hun Sen a petition urging him to stop Vietnamese trawlers from illegally fishing in Cambodian waters.

Bearing the names of some 600 Kampot City fishermen, the petition claims that Vietnamese fishing trawlers are increasingly crossing into Cambodia, dramatically cutting into their catch-and livelihoods.

“Now we have seen an increase of Vietnamese boats illegally fishing in the shallow waters off of Kampot,” said Ly Noh, a representative of the petitioning fishermen. Since 2006, he said, “Our catches have decreased about 50 percent because of the trawlers.”

While local fishermen use nets five to nine meters long, Mr Noh said, the Vietnamese trawlers employ nets as long as 300 meters. Local fishermen say the trawler captains have also grown increasingly bold over the years. While holding to evening and pre-dawn hours, the boats are coming ever closer to shore-just a few hundred meters from land in come cases-and even on occasion docking at local ports, the fishers claim.

“We would like to appeal to Samdech [Hun Sen] to help us,” urged Keo Math, another Kampot town fisherman, who said the foreign boats mostly fish off of Karaing and Tra Ngorl islands.

The petition also claims that the fishermen have lodged several complaints with provincial authorities since 2006, all to no avail. The fishermen had planned to protest in front of provincial governor Khoy Khun Hour’s office last month. But Mr Noh said yesterday that they called it off in favor of a less confrontational approach.

Mr Khun Hour said he was too busy to speak with a reporter yesterday. Last month, however, he conceded to the occasional breach from Vietnam and said Cambodian fishermen were at least as guilty of illegal cross-border fishing as their neighbors. He said the Cambodian and Vietnamese provinces on either side of the maritime border had an unwritten agreement not to fine each other’s fishermen for crossing over.

Lim Leang Se, deputy chief of the premier’s cabinet, confirmed receipt of the petition and said it had been handed over to the Agriculture Ministry for investigation.

Neither Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun nor Fisheries Administration director Nao Thuok could be reached yesterday. A spokesman for the Vietnamese Embassy did not return an e-mailed request for comment.

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