While river fishermen claim to have had smaller catches this season, experts predict that this year’s yield of freshwater fish will be double that of previous years.
Heng Kong, director of the Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute of the Fisheries Administration (FiA), predicted that with the increase in the flow of the Tonle Sap River and the Mekong River, fish catches of fresh water this year would be higher.
This would be aided by the activities of joint national, provincial and local authorities to effectively crack down on fishing crimes, he told The Post.
“Although the fishing earlier this season was low, depending on the weather and water flows, I believe that our yield of freshwater fish this year will be double that of previous years, while the fish it may be bigger than last year.
“This will be supported by increased enforcement of the law protecting freshwater fisheries by the authorities,” Kong said.
Fishermen in Tonle Sap tributaries would likely catch more during November, he added, while those in the lake itself, especially along the main fishing season, could see catches increase in mid-November or early December, except heavy rains or low temperatures.
Long Sochhet, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Fishermen (CCF), said he also expected better fish yields this year.
“Given the abundance of water and the efforts of the authorities to enforce the fishing law, I believe that the amount of fish this year will increase.
“So I urge all relevant authorities not to relent in their efforts and not absolve the perpetrators of fishing crimes,” he told The Post.
According to a FiA report, Cambodia’s freshwater fisheries reached 383,050 tonnes in 2021.
Thach Phanara, head of the FiA’s laboratory division at the Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute, said the lake and rivers would be richer in smaller fish this year.
Citing a survey of fry flows along the Mekong from July to September, he said smaller species of fish, such as common flounder, Thynnichthys thynnoides, goldenfin spiny, Smith’s spiny and recorded catfish, would be abundant this year.
However, larger fish such as ‘pra’ and ‘po’ sharks, small-scale mud carp and Osteochilus melanopleura would be less abundant, he noted.
“Based on the weather and water flow patterns in Tonle Sap Lake and the movement of smaller fish in the Mekong River, we expect natural fish populations this year to be higher than last year.
“This is also due to the crackdown on fishing crimes, especially the confiscation of illegal fishing gear in 70,000ha of flooded forest,” he said.
Despite predictions of higher yields by experts, some freshwater fishermen complain of small catches, with a maximum of 5 kg per day.
Dul Buntha, a fisherman from Cholkiri district in Kampong Chhnang province, told The Post that his experience was different from official forecasts.
“Fisheries officials never predict a decline in fish yield under any circumstances, but for fishermen, most of them are almost starving because we can’t catch enough fish.
“We are trying hard to catch fish, catching only 3-5kg a day, and now we hardly have the rice,” he said.
According to Buntha, while fishing crimes in the Tonle Sap Lake area decreased due to a crackdown by the authorities, they re-occurred significantly during the rainy season.
Hor Sam Ath, deputy head of the fishing community of Sdei Kraom Rohal Suong in Prek Luong commune of Ek Phnom district in Battambang province, told The Post that fishing had not been productive at the beginning of this season
“Because there are large amounts of water everywhere, many fish moved to the flooded fields, while the large rivers and lakes are so deep that it is impossible to fish.
“I tried fishing in the river but I haven’t caught many, so it’s better to fish in the field for now,” he said.
According to Sam Ath, the fish that could be caught in the fields early this season in numbers were mostly lake fish, including walleye, moonlight gourami and snakehead murre.
The fish moving from the rivers, he added, were goldfin, Smith’s spiny and Asian redtail catfish, which, while plentiful, were small.