Ministry Fights Illegal Fishing

Local fisheries officials recalled to Phnom Penh two months ago  for “retraining” have returned to their provincial jobs to fight illegal fish­ing during the upcoming spawn­­­ing season, Department of Fisheries Deputy Director Sam Nov said.

More than 500 patrol officials, re­­cently educated on new regulations, new laws and community fishing management, will work with military policemen to enforce a ban on fishing scheduled to be­gin Friday and last through the end of September, he said.

Patrolmen will focus on the hard-to-protect baby catfish, which have not yet been overfished but are much sought after because of the high prices buyers from Viet­nam pay, said another fisheries official.

Patrols were halted in February when officers were called to the capital for retraining following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s orders to overhaul drastically the fishing lot system. In October, the premier fired the head of the Fish­eries Department and order­ed more than 500,000 hectares of fishing lots be returned to the public for subsistence fishing.

But in April, lawmakers representing fishing areas complained that fishermen were using illegal equipment, overfishing, fishing in prohibited areas and using batteries to electrocute fish.

“Now our fisheries officials are ready to crack down on illegal fish­ing,” said Pursat provincial De­­­part­ment of Agriculture Direct­or Tith Sam Oeun.

Touch Seang Tana, a fisheries specialist at the Ministry of Ag­riculture, Forestry and Fish­eries, said some man-made bamboo blockages of rivers, streams and creeks could prevent fish from migrating to their Tonle Sap spawn­ing grounds. He said fishermen have recently increased their use of bamboo traps in the country’s fishing areas.

Touch Seang Tana also said the fishing ban should be five months instead of four, lasting from May to September and giving fish more time to spawn.

“Fishing lot owners will catch as much as they can in order to make a profit,” he said. “If there is a long fishing period, all fish would be caught since the fishing equipment is so modern.”


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