Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Friday ordered the government task force responsible for eliminating illegal fishing on Tonle Sap lake to intensify operations for two more weeks in two provinces most rife with illegal fishing, officials said.
During a Friday meeting with the governors of provinces ringing the Tonle Sap, Mr. Kheng assigned two teams of 30 officers to stamp out illegal fishing in Kompong Chhnang and Kompong Thom provinces, both areas in which trawlers using seine remained a problem, Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon said.
“Some people are involved in illegal fishing, but what we want is to arrest those behind them–ringleaders,” Mr. Sakhon said. “Kompong Chhnang and Kompong Thom provinces are given two more weeks, until mid February, and after that we will take a helicopter ride to inspect.”
Provincial officials in Pursat, Battambang and Siem Reap provinces had achieved more success in curbing the use illegal fishing equipment, and they were asked to continue their efforts, Mr. Sakhon said by phone after the meeting at the Interior Ministry in Phnom Penh.
Sok Lou, the governor of Kompong Thom province, said Friday that illegal fishing remained a significant problem in two floating communes in Kompong Svay and Stong districts because it was usually conducted at night with nets and lamps.
“We are committed to cracking down on fisheries crime, but sometimes it is very hard because it occurs at night,” Mr. Lou said.
Mr. Kheng, Mr. Sakhon and National Police Chief Neth Savoeun reviewed the lake by helicopter on Wednesday as a part of monthly inspections and saw evidence of illegal fishing equipment in Kompong Chhnang and Kompong Thom provinces.
On Tuesday, about 80 policemen, military police and fisheries officials clashed briefly with about 40 fishermen in Pursat province’s Krakor district who were disgruntled over the seizure of their fishing gear.
About 40 fishermen were arrested and of those, 30 were charged on Friday with the illegal use of a 1.50-centimeter mesh net banned under the fisheries law, said Long Cheap, a provincial deputy prosecutor.
“Now, they are sent to the provincial prison,” Mr. Cheap said. The charge carries a penalty of up to a year in prison if the fisherman are found guilty.
Since January 1, the task force has cracked down on 130 cases, arrested 52 fishermen and impounded 21 boats, officials said.
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