Government officials and experts with USAID yesterday held a workshop to discuss the management and conservation of vulnerable fish species through the latter’s Wonders of the Mekong project.
The project is designed to bring increased public awareness to fish conservation in a bid to build a sustainable future.
Saray Samadee, the project’s coordinator, said in a statement that fish migration in the Mekong river basin helps to support the world’s largest inland fishery and provides livelihoods for millions of people.
The Sekong-Mekong Tonle Sap river corridor is considered a vital migration corridor used by fish classified as critically endangered, she added.
“A strategic, science-based management approach is needed to connect management of critical habitats, mitigate threats, and protect this vital fisheries resource,” she said. “However, no vision currently exists for such an approach in Cambodia.”
Eng Chea San, Fisheries Administration director-general, said the Tonle Sap lake is one of the most productive and diverse lakes in the world.
Mr Chea San said nearly 900 species of fish have been recorded in the Mekong river basin, 165 of which are migratory fish species.
He added that the government has been implementing programmes for migratory species in order to monitor larval and juvenile fish in the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers.
The government has also stocked endangered fish species in protected areas and conservation zones and plans to improve the monitoring of illegal trade while raising awareness, Mr Chea San said.
“The most popular fish in Cambodia is Pa Sa’ee. This particular species is not yet extinct in Cambodia, but the number of them has decreased,” he said. “We recognise the effects of dams on fish [migration], but we need electricity for our livelihood.”
“In response to such development, the government is making sure that all environmental and social impact assessments are properly planned and carried out, and that precautionary actions and mitigation measures are properly planned and implemented to prevent [negative impacts] dams could have on humans, fish and other organisms,” Mr Chea San said.
Sang Lee, USAID director in charge of food security and the environment, said the government has made gains in addressing illegal fishing practices, as well as research and conservation.
“These types of actions are important steps to address some of the threats facing Cambodia’s fish population,” Ms Lee said.
The Agriculture Ministry said illegal fishing cases slumped by about 12 percent in the first half of this year when compared to the same period last year.
In crackdowns on illegal fishing, hundreds of kilometres of fishing nets and 244 electric fishing devices were seized and almost 20,000 kilograms of fish were released.