Thousands of fish have been dying in fish-raising ponds along the coast of Preah Sihanouk province over the past week, sparking alarm among pond owners and market vendors.
Fishery experts have said that the cause is likely bacteria or parasites in the water, but are assuring local residents that water quality is improving.
Local fish sellers say they are alarmed about sales plunging because there are fewer fish to sell and are urging officials to solve the problem as quickly as possible. “People have been struggling for two or three days now. Maybe hundreds of tons of fish have died and people are losing a lot of money because of this,” said a local fish farmer who asked not to be named.
“Most [fish farmers] borrow money from the bank to raise fish. So, when the fish die they are worried about their loans, and they hope the government can solve the problem,” she said.
One fish farmer told Khmer Times that local residents are skeptical about the government’s explanation that bacteria or parasites are the reason for the sudden crisis. But he added that they are eager to learn the results of tests conducted by national fishery officials.
“We think that some of the factors behind the fish deaths are drainage of toxins into the sea, as factories pump a lot of waste water into the sea,” he said, adding that improperly disposed garbage could also be a factor.
Nen Chanroeun, chief of the Fishery Administration in Preah Sihanouk, said an investigation had just wrapped up.
“We just finished our investigation and found out the reasons why so many fish died a few days ago,” he said. “The first is because the water had bacteria and parasites in it, and the second reason is that people brought fish from outside the country [to raise here], and these fish had parasites and bacteria in them. They did not know their fish were sick [when they bought them],” he explained.
He said the fish began dying on November 28, but the numbers of fish dying had fallen. “The water we tested today was fresh, so we hope that we will not have any more problems. However, we will meet with villagers soon to find a solution and educate them on fish raising techniques and discuss their concerns,” Mr. Chanroeun added.