The fish yield in 2021 decreased by 8.53 per cent compared to 2020 with climate change, the Mekong River’s water levels and the clearing of flooded forests – home to spawning areas for fish – the cause of the decline, according to Poum Sotha, the government delegate in charge of the Fisheries Administration.

Sotha said that this year, the total freshwater and marine production was 383,052 and 125,000 tonnes respectively, while total aquaculture output was 348,348 tonnes.

“In 2021, the total amount of fishery products from sea and freshwater fishing and aquaculture was 856,400 tonnes. This is a decrease of 8.53 per cent compared to 2020, which had a total output of 936,300 tonnes,” he said.

According to Sotha, the decline in production this year was due to climate change and less rainfall in the catchment area of the Mekong River Basin, resulting in lower water levels. Water was unable to flow into natural lakes, especially the Tonle Sap Lake, which saw slower water flow than previous years, making fish less abundant and fish sizes smaller.

In the Chhnuk Trou fishing community in Kampong Chhnang province, 58-year-old Phat Phalla noticed that in the area where she lives there were more fish than last year.

She said that during this year’s fishing season, fishermen in her community caught a lot of fish, with fisherman being able to catch 20-30kg a day compared to 10-15kg last year.

“I only know that in my Chhnuk Trou area, there were more fish than before. I do not know about other areas. The abundance of fish here is likely due to the fact that residents of floating houses have been ordered to relocate to land so there is not as many fishermen on the water as before,” she said.

Chak Choeurn, a fishing community member in Peam Bang commune of Kampong Thom province’s Stoung district, said on December 28 that although the water level of the Tonle Sap Lake this year was less due to lower water levels along the Mekong River, rainfall from the Cardamom Mountains helped to fill natural lakes around the Tonle Sap Lake, resulting in more fish.

“If the thousands of hectares of flooded forests had not been cleared, there would have been more fish. The flooded forests are not only a spawning ground for fish, but also a rich source of food for all kinds of fish species,” he said.