Illegal fishing in coastal provinces has seen a remarkable decrease this year which experts attribute to effective campaigns to educate local residents of applicable laws and widespread patrols by law enforcement.

Theng Borin, director of the provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, told The Post on December 7 that local authorities have tackled 21 cases of illegal fishing so far this year, down 20 per cent from the previous year. Offences included illegal use of electrocution devices, rat catching traps, diving equipment and unlicensed trawlers.

“In these 21 instances, authorities have educated and instructed offenders, entreating them to sign contracts acknowledging the offences and agree to desist. We did this instead of sending them to court. We must deter illegal fishing activities because of their harmful impact on marine life and other natural resources,” he said.

In Koh Kong province, provincial agriculture department director Y Meng Leang said maritime poaching offences in his locale had also decreased.

He noted that some infractions were minor, and police officers at the scenes had educated some offenders based on actual circumstances, while some violators were fined.

“We have cracked down on illegal fishing operations, but there are still small offences. We explain what is prohibited in each instance, and then we must continue our outreach when we find the next offenders,” he said.

In Kampot province, Fisheries Administration chief Sar Sorin said local officials had issued citations in 68 illegal fishing cases this year, also marking a 20 per cent decrease.

He noted that officials had cooperated with civil society organisations to publicise the law and spread awareness within the community on 50 occasions.

Neak Sen, a representative of the Koh Traeuy fishing community in Kampot, said fish poaching, especially around Kampot, remained a regular occurrence despite efforts by provincial authorities to stamp them out.

“There are still frequent fishing offences, and many of the people use electrocution devices and drag large nets,” he said.

Sen added that the fishing community had called on provincial police to act against violations, but there had not yet been much cooperation.

Preah Sihanouk provincial agriculture department director Nen Chamroeun could not be reached for comment on December 7.