In just over a month since the creation of a special task force to curb illegal fishing on the Tonle Sap lake, the Agriculture Ministry says it has already dealt with thousands of offenses.
“We have arrested nearly 10 people and cracked down on almost 4,000 cases during the operation,” Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon said on Wednesday. “Some of them were sent to court and some of them were educated and allowed to return home after they paid a fine for small fishing crimes.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen signed off on a sub-decree creating the task force on December 13. But Mr. Sakhon said the crackdown actually began on December 8 on orders from the Interior Ministry.
The minister said it was proving hard to stamp out illegal fishing because the government lacked the resources to keep a constant watch on fishing families who lived on the lake.
“We cannot stop the crime unless we move those people from the lake to the land,” he said. “We don’t have a plan yet, but we will do it in the future.”
The task force is permitted to use speedboats and helicopters to aid its work, but Mr. Sakhon said it had yet to use them on any raids.
A report prepared by the ministry on the task force’s work up to the end of last month says it also confiscated illegal fishing kits in 162 cases, including electrical equipment used to shock and catch fish.
The government formed the task force out of concern for poor coordination between the Agriculture Ministry’s Fisheries Administration and the provincial authorities ringing the Tonle Sap.