The Fisheries Administration (FiA) has announced the start of the prahok season, advising people to take advantage of the plentiful catches that it predicted would be available until early January.

In a December 28 notice, the FiA, which is under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said the 2022-2023 season will run from December 29 until January 3.

“The fish have begun to migrate from the Tonle Sap Lake – and its tributaries – into the Tonle Sap, Mekong and Bassac rivers. This is conducive to excellent yields for fishermen, especially along the Tonle Sap River in Phnom Penh and neighbouring Kandal province. As long as the skies remain clear and there are no thunderstorms, this will be an excellent year,” said Heng Sophearith, director of the FiA’s Kandal cantonment.

Sophearith urged people to visit the riverside province as soon as possible if they want to buy the fish required to make prahok – a ubiquitous pungent-smelling fermented fish paste used in a wide variety of local dishes.

“Last year, we had bad weather with lots of rain, which meant the fish were not abundant. This year, the moon will be waxing from December 29 onwards. The skies are clear, and the fish will be abundant. This year’s catch will be far better than last year’s, especially in Ponhea Leu district,” he said.

He explained that aside from the weather and cycle of the moon, another factor in the increase in the number of fish being caught is the FiA’s efforts – in cooperation with the Ponhea Leu district authorities – to stamp out illegal fishing activities. This includes the use of stun devices or electrified fishing nets, which cause severe damage to juvenile fish populations.

“We will continue to work with the local authorities and the armed forces to prevent fisheries crimes in Kandal province, in order to protect our fisheries resources and allow them to grow so we can manage them sustainably,” he said.

Sok Thida, a 40-year-old resident of Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district who regularly makes prahok for her family, said this year was no different from last year. Now that the prahok season is declared open, she will go shopping for the fish.

“Each year, I make 30 to 50kg of prahok for my family. Some of the people in my village buy some from me, but I do not make it to sell for profit. I have paid anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 riel [$.50 to $1] per kilogramme in previous years, but I do not know what price they will sell for this year,” she added.

The FiA has requested that local authorities make it convenient for people to travel during the prahok season, with many families travelling to their favourite spot to pick up the annual traditional delicacy.