The Fisheries Administration has issued a notice to all offshore fishermen in Cambodia that fishing for mackerel during the spawning season from January 15 to March 31 is forbidden.

According to the announcement by the Fisheries Administration, as of January 15 there is a “closure of fishing for mackerel fish” until the new season begins March 31.

“In order to contribute to the preservation and protection of sea fisheries resources, the Fisheries Administration hopes that all people engaged in fishing for mackerel will stop this type of fishing from January 15 to March 31,” Fisheries Administration director-general Pum Sotha underlined in the announcement.

However, fishermen are still able to continue fishing for marine animals such as crabs, squid, prawns and other species of fish to support their families, according to director of Preah Sihanouk provincial Fisheries Administration Em Phea on January 18.

“We ban fishing for mackerel, but apart from that species we do not ban sea fishermen from fishing, they can proceed as usual,” he said.

Phea said that in 2021 the total catch from sea fishing was more than 47,500 tonnes – a decrease of 50 tonnes compared to 2020.

Kim Khun, a fisherman from a community in Prey Nop district’s O’Chrov commune of Preah Sihanouk province, told The Post that this season his fishing business was not making much money.

“During the off-season for mackerel, we caught only three to five kg a day, because now even crabs, shrimps and squid are not plenty,” he said.

Kampot provincial Fisheries Administration director Sar Sorin said the decline in the marine catch was due to a number of factors, including climate change causing frequent thunderstorms.

However, he said, the decline was also due to human factors in particular such as the loss of habitat in the fishery due to coastal development activities, illegal fishing gear use and limited awareness of environmental protection and natural resources.

He said that in 2021, the total catch by fishermen was about 18,000 tonnes. This amount decreased by 2,300 tonnes or 11 percent compared to 2020, while last year the total catch was 20,300 tonnes.

Theng Borin, the head of the Kep provincial agriculture, forestry and fisheries department, said that the total yield caught by fishermen in 2021 was 5,247 tonnes. Meanwhile, about 40 fishery crimes were investigated.

“During the off-season for mackerel fishing, our experts have been educating fishermen and expanding the community crab bank management programme to increase income,” Borin said.

According to Borin, Kep is rich in sea grass, which is an important source of food for all kinds of marine life, especially crabs and shrimp. The sea grass conservation area in Kep province has a total area of 3,095ha under the control of the state fisheries.

Lay Sary, deputy director of the Koh Kong provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, told The Post that during the off-season for mackerel fishing, officials from the Fisheries Administration organised the deployment of concrete boxes in the area for conservation of mackerel and they educate fishermen to participate in the protection and conservation of marine resources.