Fishermen using bag nets on the Tonle Sap this season had their best overall catch since records began in late 1994, fisheries department Director Nao Thouk said Monday, citing figures from the Mekong River Commission.
The MRC’s May newsletter, Catch and Culture, featured a study of Tonle Sap fishermen, also known as Dai fishermen, who use large bag-like nets to scoop up fish being pushed down river by the annual draining of the lake.
While Dai fishermen represent only 3 percent to 5 percent of the total fishing industry in Cambodia, Nao Thouk said the increased bag-net catch was a good indicator of the total fish catch.
“We saw the increasing fish catch up to about 16,000 tons from the [bag nets], which is a good indication for the total fish catch,” he said.
According to the study, the 16,000-ton catch was better than the 10,000-ton average over the previous decade.
Low flood levels contributed to total fish catches in Cambodia dropping from 360,000 tons in 2002-2003 to 250,000 tons in 2003-2004, Nao Thouk said. The director said better data collection and crackdowns on illegal fishing equipment contributed to the increased catch.
Cambodian fisheries scientist Touch Seang Tana praised the government for increasing enforcement of fishing laws but disagreed with the MRC’s assessment that this season was the best since 1994, citing a lack of reliable data from that time.
Mak Sothearith, the director of the Fisheries Action Coalition Team, said he too found it hard to believe there was a larger catch this year because fish prices are higher than usual.