Tougher Law On Fishing To Be Debated

The National Assembly on Wed­nes­day postponed until next week de­bate on a new law that introduces heavier fines and stiffer prison sentences for illegal fishing.

For fishing practices such as the use of explosives or electric currents, the new law would jail offenders for between three and five years. It would also enable government officials who permit such practices to be jailed for between one and three years, and would allot fishing grounds to local communities.

The current law provides sentences of three months to one year for illegal fishing, and only 15 people were prosecuted under it last year, said Nao Thuok, director of the Ag­ri­culture Ministry’s fisheries department. The law, in effect since 1987, is outdated and weak, he said by telephone.

“There was no power in the old law,” he said.

During Wednesday’s debate, op­po­sition lawmaker Yim Sovann ac­cused illegal Vietnamese immigrants of killing fish by polluting rivers.

“There are a lot of floating houses where the owners are not Cam­bo­dians. They are illegal Vietnam­ese immigrants,” he said.

“They pol­lute the water by dump­ing the waste into the water to cause the fish to die,” he added.

Nao Thuok said the new law calls for new floating settlements to be lo­ca­ted at least 2 km from fish sanctuaries.

Yim Sovann also demanded that the Ministry of Agriculture explain why so many dolphins are dying.

Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun told the Assembly that the dolphins are threatened by grenades and fish­ing nets, and that inbreeding is leaving them with shorter life spans.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap at­tributed a decline of fish in general to illegal fishing techniques.

But Nao Thuok said fish stocks are not in fact declining. Estimates say this year’s catch will be 30,000 tons, a 20-percent increase over last year, he said.

The session has been postponed until Tuesday, when lawmakers are to vote on the issue.

     (Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)







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