Following a concerted clampdown effort on the order of Prime Minister Hun Sen in response to an alarming report by Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch, illegal large-scale fishing operations on the Tonle Sap Lake appear to have been significantly curtailed.
During the government’s law enforcement campaign, 50 cases involving fisheries offences committed on the lake were sent to courts, 19 people were summoned for questioning and 25 suspects were arrested and detained, according to Poum Sotha, director-general of the Fisheries Administration (FiA) under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
At a press conference on the progress of the law enforcement efforts organised by the Government Spokesperson’s Unit at the Council of Ministers on July 19, Sotha said that thousands of electrical shock fishing tools and pieces of equipment were confiscated in March after the prime minister issued the orders.
He added that currently fisheries crimes on the Tonle Sap Lake were being investigated or actively prevented by officials from the agricultural ministry, Ministry of Interior, Military Police and by sub-national level authorities.
“At Tonle Sap Lake, we are divided into groups. One group works in Chroy Sdey area of Pursat province and another group is in the Kampong Phluk area of Siem Reap province. Both groups have deployed fast response forces to patrol and stop fisheries offences,” he said.
He said the mobile forces search for and arrest offenders, especially those whom the joint national commission termed “mobile” offenders who used electrocution devices on motorboats and were destroying the most freshwater resources in the area.
He said that as a result of the crackdown on illegal fishing, the authorities had seized 73 various kinds of fishing nets or sets of nets or 236,329m of nets, along with 1,248 electrical shocking tools and 21 machines, in addition to 2,261 traps with nearly 150,000 trap poles as well as 105 boats and 77 boat engines.
“Regarding the fisheries offences on the Tonle Sap Lake, we have cracked down on all of the large-scale offenders. The main offences that still remain include electric shock fishing on individual motor boats, which is a highly mobile method of illegal fishing that is difficult to crack down on,” he said.