Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina, who serves as chairman of the inter-ministerial commission for the prevention and suppression of fisheries crimes on the Tonle Sap Lake, conducted a helicopter inspection of the five provinces that border Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake.

Tina was accompanied by provincial leaders on the June 25 tour of Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Kampong Thom, Battambang and Siem Reap provinces, said a ministry press release.

“The purpose of the inspection was to monitor the current situation of many of the lake’s largest fisheries,” it added.

The commercial fishing season is closed from June to October, in order to allow the Kingdom’s fish stocks to spawn and replenish themselves.

Tina called on fisheries officials and local authorities to investigate suspected fisheries crimes and arrest anyone suspected of denuding fisheries resources with commercial equipment.

Ly La, director of the Fisheries Administration’s (FiA) Kampong Chhnang provincial cantonment, explained that while the fishing season is closed, the authorities conduct educational outreach programmes to remind people that they are prohibited from using commercial fishing equipment at this time of year.

He said the outreach programmes were carried out by each district’s joint forces, consisting of the armed forces, community leaders and fisheries specialists, along with regular patrols to catch lawbreakers.

“Family-scale fishing is still permitted, as this is the primary source of protein for many households on the lake,” he said.

“Three cases have been sent to court since the fishing season closed. One case involved the illegal clearance of land and one was a case of a canal being dug without authorisation. In addition we caught people using electric shock gear to fish. Each of these matters is now before the courts,” he added.

In April last year, the government established the inter-ministerial commission for the prevention and suppression of fisheries crimes on Tonle Sap. The commission has the right to use the helicopters of the Royal Cambodian Air Force (RCAF)to carry out its mission.