Snakehead Ban in the Works

The government will soon ban snakehead fish nurseries across the coun­try in hopes of replacing them with nurseries containing a less rav­en­­ous hybrid fish, a fisheries official said Thursday.

Nao Thuok, director of the Fish­­ery Department at the Min­istry of Ag­­ri­culture, Forestry and Fish­eries, said the hybrid, which is only part snakehead, will eat a new type of fish feed instead of other fish. The min­­is­try is also rea­dy to produce the new fish feed at a breeding station in Pe­am Ro district, Prey Veng pro­vince.

“The new feed is 15 percent meat, and the rest is plant matter,” Nao Thuok said. “We can train [the hy­brid fish] to eat food dif­ferent from the usual river fish diet,” he said.

The ministry initially banned snake­­head nurseries in May but ex­­tended the deadline to August to al­low fish farmers to sell their re­maining stock, Nao Thuok said. Snake­­head fisheries in Kan­dal pro­vince have already been closed, and fish­eries in other provinces will soon fol­low, he added.

Nao Thuok said the government ap­­proved the ban in 2004 at the re­quest of fishermen and fishing com­mu­nities who said river fish populations were being devastated by the ra­­pacious snakehead.

“Snakeheads destroy other fish,” he said. “A 1-kg snakehead can eat 5 kg of other fish.”

And according to Nao Thuok, the roughly 2,000 tons of snakeheads rais­ed each year consume about 10,000 tons of other fish re­sources.

Touch Seang Tana, a fisheries ex­­pert and a member of the Coun­cil of Min­­isters Economic, So­cial, Cul­tural and Observation Unit, agreed that snakeheads were ruinous to the en­­vironment but said the government must be sure to train people in how to farm the new hybrids.

“We must ban [snakeheads],” he said. “But we think the minis­try should help train people to do something else.”


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