Fishermen and villagers in Kbal Romeas commune’s Sre Sranok village of Stung Treng province’s Sesan district have expressed concern over the presence of hundreds of dead fish that were found floating in the Sesan River over a period of several days.

Sin Sovannara, head of the Sre Sranok Samaki fishing community, said on April 18 that many different species of fish had been found dead in the river running through Kbal Romeas commune’s Sre Sranok village.

He said that prior to this event, a group of fishermen had put 100sqm of fishing nets in the water and then later found dead fish floating there.

“We do not know what happened. But we saw that some people spread their nets of about 100sqm in size and then they did something and later we saw many dead fish,” he said.

He said the dead fish had now been found floating in the river for more than a week so people have been collecting them to eat, and no known health problems have resulted thus far.

He confirmed that after seeing dead fish in the river, he reported the incident to fisheries officials but had not seen any officials inspect the area yet.

He said he could not give an exact estimate of the number of dead fish, but judging by the amount of fish that people had picked up, it was at least 300kg.

“The dead fish species are diverse, but mostly tilapia. People picked up only the nice big fish to eat and left the smaller ones floating in the water. I requested that expert officials help study and research the situation,” he said.

Mon Sok Meng, a resident of Sre Sronok village, said on April 18 that he also saw many dead fish floating in the Sesan River when he went fishing.

The villagers have been collecting some of the dead fish and using them to make fish paste, salted fish and other foods. He said that as of April 18 the fish there are still dying for unknown reasons, making people worry about the amount of fish being lost from the river.

“Residents are worried. At first people were afraid the fishermen had shocked the fish but now they are afraid that the fish were poisoned and that some species could become locally extinct,” he said.

Sok Meng said he saw people collect fish from the river in a boat and they got at least 50 to 60kg, and that most of the fish that people picked up were bigger fish weighing one to 2kg.

Srey Sam Vichet, acting head of the provincial Fisheries Administration, said on April 18 that there had been cases of dead fish in the Sesan River reported, but the information he received was that they had been dead since early April and that it was only a small number of tilapia.

He added that the cause of their death was not yet known and he did not send any fish to the laboratory for study.

In his initial conclusions, the death of the fish in the Sesan River was not caused by electrocution or by pollution because in that case more than one species of fish would have died.

“It may be related to the biological characteristics of tilapia. If for some reason the habitat there isn’t appropriate for them they will die. If it was poisonous then there would be unfavourable conditions for all fish and all of them would die,” he said.

Vichet said he had told the fishing community to help monitor the situation and gather information so that his officials would be able to come up with a plan to prevent any further fish die-offs there.

He said the experts in the Fisheries Administration had only been given preliminary information and they had not been provided with clear evidence of what took place.

“The information that I received through the reports of the community is that it was only tilapia. Pictures that they took only showed tilapia, so all of the information about this event isn’t clear yet. I told them to continue to monitor the situation so that it’s easier for us to know when to inspect the area and take samples,” he said.