Cambodia's natural fisheries resources have declined so significantly that they fail to meet consumers’ daily needs, according to a Wonders of the Mekong project statement on September 12.

It said climate change, changes in flood patterns, the use of illegal fishing equipment, logging and deforestation and the filling of lakes and ponds were all factors behind the decline.

It added that the Tonle Sap Lake, Mekong River and hundreds of other rivers and lakes throughout the Kingdom have traditionally supplied people with hundreds of thousands of tonnes of fish – so much so that they were exported in the past, and fish farming was not considered worthwhile.

Research now showed that a significant portion of the resources had been lost, with many more endangered. This meant the Kingdom’s fishery supplies were markedly limited when compared to recent years.

It said aquaculture could make an important contribution to reducing pressure on natural resources, increasing incomes and ensuring food security and nutrition for the Cambodian people. The Wonders of the Mekong project plans to increase its conservation and aquaculture development work, as the two are closely related.

It said it had been collecting fingerlings from the Mekong since 2017. It had been feeding them in ponds with controlled water quality and monitoring their growth. The fish were divided into separate ponds according to the year they were hatched, so it was easy to monitor their progress.

The project had not only collected the fingerlings, but occasionally received rare fish such as the Mekong giant catfish and the Mekong giant barb from fishermen and aquaculturists. It cared for them if they were injured, and then released them back into the rivers and lakes.

Phum Vimol, director of the Pursat provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said the fisheries sector was in good health, saying there were abundant populations of species such as Keas fish and the common dace fish.

He added that if Cambodia continued to protect these species, there would be no way that the sector would decline. The Kingdom has been diligent in enforcing fisheries regulations and redeveloping fisheries cooperatives.

“If we maintain our current practices, these species will not be going anywhere. Of course, water flow is an issue that we cannot control, so if that remains limited there may be concerns. As long as we have plenty of water, we will have plenty of fish,” he said.