The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has announced that it greenlit a $73 million financing package on December 7 to improve the sustainability and climate resilience of the Kingdom’s marine fisheries subsector.

“The fishery subsector is an important component of Cambodia’s economy, accounting for eight-to-10 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product [GDP],” the Metro Manila-based multilateral lender said in a statement the following day.

In terms of dollar value, this range can be expressed as $2.156-2.697 billion, using the World Bank’s $26.961 billion figure for Cambodia’s 2021 GDP as reference.

“Marine fisheries account for 13 per cent of the fishery subsector, yet, overfishing and climate change have led to a substantial decline in fish stocks, which has impacted coastal communities and businesses and resulted in higher fish prices,” the ADB added.

The statement broke down the financing for the accompanying initiative, the Sustainable Coastal and Marine Fisheries Project: a $41 million ADB loan; a $22 million Asian Development Fund (ADF) grant; and a $10 million ASEAN Infrastructure Fund (AIF) loan.

“[The ADF] provides grants to ADB’s poorest and most vulnerable developing member countries … [and the AIF loan will be made] under its ASEAN Catalytic Green Finance Facility [ACGF],” it explained.

“The Agence Francaise de Developpement will also provide co-financing equivalent to $20 million, to be administered by ADB,” it said, referring to the French development funding agency.

“The project will strengthen Cambodia’s marine fishery while supporting its contribution to shared fish stocks and ecosystems in the Gulf of Thailand.

“It will help the country’s four coastal provinces – Kampot, Kep, Koh Kong, and Preah Sihanouk – reverse the sharp decline in fisheries, promote sustainable mariculture [marine farming], and enhance fish landing sites to improve seafood safety.

“It is expected that under the project, about 40 per cent of the nearshore fishery will be regenerated into more productive and sustainable enterprise.

“The project will promote private sector development by enabling coastal communities and small businesses to diversify their livelihoods, adopt sustainable practices, and grow into viable enterprises. It will also support women’s economic empowerment by scaling up women’s engagement in small- and medium-sized enterprises.

“Overall, the project will benefit 25 community fisheries organisations and members of 15 community-protected areas, comprising nearly 20,000 households, as well as a wider coastal community of about 200,000 people,” the ADB added.

Speaking in the statement, ADB senior natural resources and agriculture specialist for Southeast Asia Alvin Lopez said the project will be in step with the Strategic Planning Framework (SPF) for Fisheries 2015-2024, the October 2019 government statement on key marine fisheries management principles, and other pertinent government strategies.

“This project is ADB’s first significant investment in marine fisheries and represents an important milestone for its Action Plan for Healthy Oceans and Sustainable Blue Economies,” he said.

Meanwhile, local governments have been taking steps to tackle overfishing and other unsustainable fishing practices in coastal waters as well as to protect marine biodiversity and key habitats in their jurisdictions.

Recently, the Koh Kong Provincial Administration issued a ban on “kamong” fishing from December 1 and March 31 in a 12.83sq km management zone for this type of marine fishes that is located within the Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary and straddles Peam Krasop and Koh Kapi communes of Mondul Seima and Koh Kong districts, respectively.

The administration explained the 121-day ban as a measure to ensure the sustainable management of “kamong” stocks in line with national fisheries policies, and guarantee a healthy ecosystem at the zone. It warned that violators of the ban will face legal action.

“Kamong” typically refers to the Rastrelliger mackerels, particularly the short (R brachysoma) and Indian (R kanagurta) species, but can include similarly-looking fish such as the shortfin scad (Decapterus macrosoma), according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The ministry reported that the production of marine capture fisheries reached 125 kilotonnes last year – up 2.3 kilotonnes over the 2020 figure – which it said was equivalent to 96.15 per cent of the 130-kilotonne target.