Officials: Enforcement Reducing Illegal Fishing

Illegal fishing continues one month after the commercial fishing ban went into effect, but has been greatly reduced because of enforcement, provincial fisheries officials said Wednesday.

Officials said they are committed to cracking down on illegal fish­ing, especially the use of batteries to electrocute fish and catching underage and immature fish.

At least one provincial official acknowledged, however, that people are still fishing illegally.

“Fisheries officials [in Siem Reap] have so far cracked down on 30 cases of illegal activities, but there remains some illegal fishing activities in remote, forested areas,” said Tat Bunchoeun, di­rector of the Siem Reap agriculture department.

The ban began June 1 and runs through September, the time when many spe­cies of fish are breeding. Sub­sistence fishing is still allowed.

Enforcement of the ban is proving to be difficult, one provincial official said.

Battambang province fisheries officials, for example, recently asked fishermen using large bamboo-made equipment to sign promises not to fish during the ban. A Battambang fishing official said local authorities have also been alerted about the ban.

Despite these precautions, the official said Battambang officials feared that illegal fishing activity could be difficult to enforce be­cause the water levels will in­crease in the coming weeks, allow­ing illegal fishers to escape more easily.

One fishing official in Kandal pro­vince disagreed, however, saying that catching illegal fishers this season will be easier because the fishermen, for the most part, no longer are protected by armed guards. “We have seized at least 20 illegal fishing nets,” said Khlaing Vanthol, Kandal fisheries director.

Touch Seang Tana, undersecretary of state at the Council of Ministers, said the current ban is better enforced now.

Fisheries officials and experts agree that overfishing, flooding, de­forestation, erosion and an in­crease in the population have diminished the number of fish in the Tonle Sap, costing the country millions in lost revenue.


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