Signs Indicate Big Increase in Nation’s Fish Haul This Year

The director of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Fisheries Depart­ment said Sunday that statistics indicate the national fish catch is on a significant upswing this year.

“We’re seeing an increase of the catch at about 15 percent na­tionwide, even though the water lev­el is almost the same as last year,” said Nao Thuok, Fish­eries De­partment director. “It’s a good in­dication for the country’s fish­ing sector,” he said.

Official numbers for this year’s fish haul won’t be ready until the end of February, according to Nao Thuok. But he said that he was certain that it would be signif­i­cantly higher than last year, when Cambodia’s freshwater catch fell to 250,000 tons—some 26,000 tons less than the total haul collected in 2003.

He attributed the expected in­crease to this year’s prompt ar­rival of the monsoons to coincide with the natural spawning time of the fish, coupled with concerted ef­forts to prevent illegal fishing meth­ods.

But Chim Yea, an independent fisheries consultant, said the long-term trend indicates a decline in fish stocks. “There is a trend when looking at the catch from the last 10-year to 15-year period that shows the catch decreasing,” said Chim Yea.“The bigger [fish] spe­cies are gone. It’s steadily been composed of smaller spe­cies.”

Most of the large fish species that used to live in the Mekong River system, for example, have nearly disappeared, he said. The catches of medium-sized species have also been smaller, according to Mak Sithirith, director of the Fisheries Action Coalition Team.

The Fisheries Department com­ments come in the wake of news that Battambang province’s Sangke River is yielding its lar­gest fish haul in a decade.

Choung Sophea, deputy chief of the province’s fishery office, said Sunday that along with some 800 tons of live fish, about 30 tons of dead fish were scooped out of the Sangke River during a three-day period last week.

Battambang fisheries officials were still collecting dead fish Sun­day from the river, and were ap­pealing to residents along the river to help, to prevent the river from being contaminated.




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