Outlook Rosy for Cambodia’s Pungent Fish Paste

Fishing communities and fisheries officials say they are optimistic the fish catch for this year’s prahok-making season will match, if not surpass, last year’s yield.

Fishery Administration director Nao Thuok said on Friday that the results from the first catch of the season, which started last Wednesday, indicated that fishermen were on track to match last year’s catch of 120,000 tons.

Mr Thuok said that between 3,000 and 4,000 tons of fish were caught during the first three days of the annual catch of trey riel, also known as Siamese mud carp, which is the central ingredient in Cambodia’s famously pungent fish paste.

“It was a good fish catch since Dec 14…but less people came [to the riverbanks] to make prahok, because at this time of the year they are too busy harvesting rice,” Mr Thuok said.

Mr Thuok said the price of the fish was holding at between 600 and 700 riel per kg, similar to last year’s prices.

Despite saying he believed fishermen would match last year’s catch, Mr Thuok said it was still too early to tell and that officials would continue to monitor the situation.

Minh Bunly, Tonle Sap program coordinator for the Fisheries Action Coalition Team, said fishermen and local communities along the river were reporting larger catches than last year.

Mr Bunly said many believed the cooperation between communities and government officials in cracking down on illegal fishing had led to the apparent increase in fish stocks.

Keo Ratha, a fisherwoman from Pursat province’s Krakor district, confirmed Mr Bunly’s remarks, saying she believed this year’s catch was larger than last year’s.

“Last year, on average we caught 10 kg a day, but this year it has increased to 15 kg a day,” Ms Ratha said. “It has increased because the fishery officials have used measures to crack down on illegal fishing and on the use of illegal fishing equipment.”

Ms Ratha said the crackdown had helped, as fishing communities had been facing the prospect of a smaller catch this year because of low water levels.

“This year, if the water levels were good and there had been a crack down, the number of fish caught would have increased by a lot [more],” she said.

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