An ambitious campaign to plant 100,000 mangrove trees near Kampot province’s coast over nine months has been announced.
Eight fishing communities from Trapaing Sangke, Kampong Samaky, Trapaing Ropov, Prek Tnort, Kep Thmey, Toteung Thngai, Koh Kroesna, and Lok districts, civil society organisations, and Kampot provincial authorities said they would combine efforts to address the loss of Cambodia’s famed mangrove forests.
They plan to restore the Kingdom’s lost mangrove forest cover and help improve the prospects for coastal fishing communities who rely on algae and seagrass to attract small fish for their haul.
“The destruction of mangrove forestry will result in the loss of nurseries and feeding grounds, resulting in reduced fish stock and other coastal resources, negatively impacting the people’s well-being,” said Hun Boramey, the country director for ActionAid Cambodia.
Kampot and Kep provinces had some 7,900ha of mangrove forest cover in 1992. By last year, that number decreased by 62 per cent with only 1,966ha remaining in Kampot province and 1,005ha in Kep province, official figures showed.
The loss of the mangrove forests can be attributed to practices including sand dredging, mine exploration, large-scale fishing activities and climate change.
Their loss is not just felt on land. The International Union for Conservation of Nature reported that Kampot province’s seagrass bed shrank nearly three-fold between 2004 and 2014 – from 25,240ha to 8,435.80ha.
Seagrass and coral reefs play a vital role in balancing ecosystems in coastal areas by absorbing carbon dioxide, filtering pollutants, protecting the shorelines from floods and storm, preventing soil erosion, and providing habitat for and nursery ground for sea lives.
Their loss would jeopardise the income of 3,500 fishing families that generate $12-$17 per day from the mangrove tree ecosystem, a Fisheries Administration report said.
The forests have the potential to generate an income of $16 million-$220 million for fishing communities across Kampot province each year and if they’re not restored, it could destroy the livelihoods of fishermen, continued the report.
Trapaing Sangke fisheries community chief Sim Him said his community had already planted nearly 40,000 mangrove trees before the campaign was announced.
“If there was no mangrove forest, there would be no biodiversity. Their loss would force us to stop relying on nature for our environment and eat products containing chemicals imported from neighbouring countries,” said Him.
Kampot provincial fisheries administration official Sar Sorin said that as of 2014, four coastal provinces – Kampot, Preah Sihanouk, Kep and Koh Kong – had 70,000ha of combing mangrove forest cover. This year, only 50,000ha remained in those provinces.
He urged residents not to make the mistake of logging the mangrove forest arbitrarily and instead participate in conservation efforts beginning with the tree planting campaign.
“Fishing communities do a lot to protect the mangrove forests to the best of their ability but that does not mean they’re alone,” said Sorin.