Relax net limit: lake fishermen

Ven Rathavong / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Fishermen using a controversial net along a waterway. Supplied

Fishermen from three provinces around the Tonle Sap Lake have launched a protest against limits on the size of their nets.
One of them, Kong Sophea, said that on Monday that about 120 villagers from Kampong Thom’s Phat Sanday commune and 40 from Pursat and Battambang provinces hired taxis to come to the capital to meet Prime Minister Hun Sen in Phnom Penh.
However, they were blocked by authorities in Kampong Chhnang’s province’s Baribou district.
He said the restriction was aimed at making them discuss their issues with Kampong Thom provincial governor Uth Sam An.
Their protest came after the government created a national anti-illegal fishing committee last month.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Thursday demanded that provincial governors do more to stop fishing crimes in the lake. He publicly warned government officials they would be fired if they continued to allow illegal fishing.
Mr. Kheng said the government would create a taskforce, led by National Police chief Neth Savoeun, to crack down on illegal fishing in the lake and would provide the group with speedboats for better enforcement.
Provinces surrounding the lake are Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang, Siem Reap and Kompong Thom.
Mr. Sophea said: “We want 500 meter barrier nets and 2.5cm fine mesh nylon nets. If we use this length, we could get fish to support our livelihood.”
With this net they could get about 50 kilograms in a morning, he said. However, the legal length of a net is 50 meters.
“I do not accept 50 meters because it cannot support our livelihood and feed our children,” he said.
“Each villager owes the bank at least 10 million riel ($2,500).”
Mr. Sophea said villagers had secretly used barrier nets up to 300 meters, and some used up to 500 meters in their region. He said Mr. Sam An asked them to provide their views within three days and he would take their points to discuss with Mr. Kheng.
However, Mr. Sophea said if there was no solution, they would go to Phnom Penh again to ask for help from Mr. Hun Sen.
Long Sochet, head of the Coalition of Cambodia Fishers, said he did not support the protest.
He said that if the government allowed even 200 meter nets, the lake would be full of people using them and there would be no fish.
“The livelihood of citizens would be improved, but for a short time,” he said. “And then in the future there would be no more fish resources.”
Mr. Sochet said the government should strengthen the law and enforce it strictly.
Mr. Sochet said barrier net installation required a lot of capital. Because some fishermen had been using these nets, they demanded to be allowed to continue.
However, he said some who fish as a family do not want barrier nets. Mr. Sam An could not be reached for comment. Deputy governor Sok Lou said Mr. Sam An had gone to Phnom Penh for a meeting on legal action to crack down on illegal fishing.
On Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon held a meeting with national police and provincial authorities on measures to curb illegal fishing at the lake.

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