The Fisheries Administration under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will close fishing for short mackerel in Cambodian waters from January 15 to March 31 this year, according to an announcement seen by The Post on January 10.

It said the reason for the closure is the onset of the short mackerel’s spawning season and that the Fisheries Administration strictly prohibits fishing for short mackerel – known by its scientific name Rastrelliger brachysoma – in its territorial waters during spawning in order to preserve and protect Cambodia’s marine fisheries resources.

Kampot provincial Fisheries Administration chief Sar Sorin told The Post on January 10 that officials had circulated the announcement in the fishing communities along the coast to make them aware of the ban.

“We educate and guide them to understand the importance of why we close down fishing during spawning season, and we advise them to change their fishing equipment to catch something other than short mackerel, because there are a lot of other fish [species] in our seas,” Sorin said.

According to Sorin, the 2020 total catch for marine fishing in Kampot province was approximately 22,000 tonnes, down 10 per cent compared to 2019.

Freshwater fishing in the province added up to roughly 6,500 tonnes while aquaculture or fish farms added about 4,000 tonnes.

“The main reason for the [ocean fishing] decrease was bad weather. There were too many storms. Another reason was Covid-19, which reduced the number of people fishing because overall demand was reduced due to the lack of tourists,” he said.

Preah Sihanouk provincial Fisheries Administration director Em Phea said the large commercial fishing boats typically observe any fishing bans put in place by the ministry.

However, he said some people who have smaller fishing boats to support their family will continue to fish for short mackerel secretly.

“When they bring in their fish we inspect them and if we see that they have short mackerel we first make them sign a letter promising to stop fishing for them. If they are stubborn and repeat the offence, then we will take legal action,” Em Phea said.

According to Em Phea, total fishery output in 2020 for Preah Sihanouk province had not decreased at all compared to 2019. He said the total fishing haul was 47,322 tonnes in 2019 and 48,812 tonnes in 2020 – an increase of about two per cent.

According to the agriculture ministry report in 2020, Cambodia produced 936,300 tonnes of fishery products, including more than 410,000 tonnes of freshwater products, more than 120,000 tonnes of marine products and more than 400,000 tonnes of aquaculture products.