Government OKs Fisheries Amendment, Allows Smaller Mesh

Streamlining fisheries cantonments and allowing finer fishing nets to allow for a bigger catch will be introduced as part of an amendment to the Fisheries Law signed off by the Council of Ministers on Friday, an official said.

The amendment gives provincial agriculture departments the responsibility to oversee the work of provincial fisheries cantonments, said Ing Try, deputy director of the Agriculture Ministry’s Fisheries Administration.

Mr. Try said on Sunday that the administrative transfer—first ordered by Prime Minister Hun Sen last year—was aimed at making the fisheries cantonments’ work more efficiently. “All sizes and mesh of fishing gear will be clearly regulated by the Agriculture Ministry,” he said.

Eng Chea San, director of the Fisheries Administration, said the directive would be finalized at the end of the year.

Mith Soksopheak, chief of South Tonle Sap lake’s fisheries administration inspectorate in Pursat and Kompong Chhnang provinces, said downsizing the net mesh size was based on requests by fishermen, who said the current legal size of 1.5 cm could not catch enough fish.

“The fishermen asked for small mesh,” he said. “We want the middle ground for the fishermen so that they can have good living conditions and also [so they can] conserve the fish.”

Minh Bunly, the Tonle Sap program coordinator for Fisheries Action Coalition Team, a group of environmental NGOs, said fish species were getting smaller, making it harder for fishermen to get a big catch.

The timing and locations of allowed fishing gear should also be well-regulated to prevent possible violations, he said.

Ouch Long, representative of the Pursat fisheries community, was worried smaller mesh could result in the further decline of the fish population.

“If small mesh of fishing equipment is allowed, it could affect fisheries,” Mr. Long said, adding that illegal fishing remained a problem.

In December, Mr. Hun Sen set up a national task force to address rampant illegal fishing on the lake, appointing Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon as the committee’s president. Mr. Sakhon said at the time that the Fisheries Administration had not been doing enough to crack down on fishing crimes.

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