The campaign to catch and prosecute people committing large-scale fishing crimes in the Tonle Sap Lake flooded forest area in Krakor, Kandieng and Bakan districts in Pursat province is yielding results.

For the past three days, authorities have uncovered many fishing crime sites, dismantled and destroyed large amounts of illegal fishing equipment and wooden barricade poles.

Provincial Fisheries Administration director Phum Vimol told The Post that during the operation, officials have been divided into three groups.

The first group educate the local fishing community so there is a clear understanding of the law and the benefits of fishery resources.

Education also encourages people to prevent fishing offences by stopping the use of illegal fishing equipment, especially fishing during the spawning season.

The other two groups research and crack down on fishery crimes in the flooded forest areas.

“At this time, we are working together to disseminate legal information and crack down on fishery crimes,” he said.

According to Vimol, the campaign started on July 10. The groups have focused efforts on the three districts. They have dismantled and destroyed 2,420 fishing wooden barricade poles, 36 fishing tools, and 34 fishing nets with a total length of 6,250m and released 29kg of fish back into the Tonle Sap Lake.

“In the operation to crack down on fisheries crimes in recent days, authorities have not yet encountered or arrested any perpetrators because they are likely to have advanced notice and fled the areas where fishing is illegal during the spawning season,” he said.

According to a report on the results of the prevention and suppression of fisheries crimes for the first half of 2021 – released by the Fisheries Administration under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and obtained by The Post on July 13 – there were a total of 1,222 cases of fisheries crimes, 70 of which were marine fishing offences, an increase of 26 cases compared to the same period last year.

In the first half of this year, the Fisheries Administration cracked down and confiscated and prevented the destruction of evidence in 1,105 cases.

The confiscated and destroyed evidence included 379,120 nets, 166,317 poles, 1,805 recycling metres, 115 fishing tackle devices, and released 10,016kg of fish back into the lake.

“During this period, police arrested and referred offenders to court in 91 cases, and 70 suspects in 26 cases were fined nearly 40 million riel [$10,000],” the report showed.

However, the Fisheries Administration emphasised in its report that fishery crimes always recur after authorities have moved through an area while small numbers of fishermen still use illegal equipment during the off-season.

At the same time, the Fisheries Administration is still investigating cases of illegal logging, clearing, burning of flooded and mangrove forests and illegal fencing, and filing cases for court while educating and guiding people.