Low Rainfall Bad for Fish Stock, Officials Say

Lower than normal water levels in the flood plains bordering the Tonle Sap river and Mekong River are threatening the health of the fishing industry, fishery officials said Thursday.

Water feeding the main bodies of the flood plains along the Me­kong River and the Tonle Sap river are a meter below last year’s water levels, said Touch Seang Tana, a member of the Council of Ministers’ economic, social and cultural observation unit.

Touch Seang Tana attributed the low water levels to dams built in upstream China.

But Water Re­sources and Mete­orology Sec­retary of State Y Kihoeurng said Thursday the wet season’s abnormally low rainfall has kept the flood plains dry.

He was unsure when there will be more rain.

Current water levels are flooding only 11,000 square km of the 15,000 square km covering the Tonle Sap’s lowlands, which could inhibit pregnant fish from laying eggs in the protective area. Fish generally spawn in the flooded forest land, but they may be forced to deposit their eggs in the river, where the offspring likely will not survive, Touch Seang Tana said.

“It is worrisome because there is not enough water in the flood plains,” Touch Seang Tana said.

“Fish catch is expected to fall in the next year,” he added.

Compared to water levels re­corded 20 years ago, this year’s wa­ter level is dangerously low, said Fisheries Department Dep­uty Director Sam Nov.

“To me, it is a big problem. No water, no fish. Less water, less fish,” he said.

Currently there is not enough water to flood lowland areas surrounding the Tonle Sap, Tonle Bassac and Mekong rivers. If more rain does not fall next month, forest areas will remain dry and the fish stock will sharply decrease, Sam Nov said.

The government enacted a ban on commercial fishing July 1 to give fish the chance to spawn. The ban ends in September. Sub­sistence fishing is permitted beneath the ban.

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