A cabinet meeting on Friday amended several articles of the fisheries law to limit the use of narrow fishing nets and introduce licences for some mechanised equipment.
Prime Minister Hun Sen chaired the session, which passed changes to empower provincial departments of agriculture to crackdown on fishing offences, ban three-centimetre fishing nets to stop the killing of baby fish and prohibit the use of fishing devices longer than 300 metres.
The amendments also mean people must now obtain a licence to use fishing machinery, or risk being fined and having the equipment confiscated.
Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon said the amendments will help make fishing more sustainable for communities.
“The Fisheries Administration will issue licences to fisherman,” he said. “This will help local communities and contribute to poverty reduction.”
Mr Hun Sen said the government had cancelled all private fishery concessions in 2000, opening up fishing to the public.
“The people can catch fish freely without any interruption from private fishing operators,” he told the cabinet. “From now on, there will be no more complicated fishery administrations. Provincial officials will work under the direct supervision of the Agriculture Ministry.”
Mr Hun Sen added that the amendments to the law were six years in the making and the government will also make changes to the forestry law soon.
According to an Agriculture Ministry report on the first half of 2017, the authorities investigated 1,653 cases of illegal fishing, up 27.34 percent compared to the same period in 2016.
Among the 2017 cases, 1,553 were on rivers and 100 at sea.
The report said the investigations led to the destruction of 704,432 metres of illegal fishing nets and 274 banned tools. About $40,000 in fines were also issued.