Kampot Fishermen Struggle to Survive Amid Declining Fish Stocks

Fishermen in Kampot province are struggling amid declining fish stock, which they say is the result of illegal fishing, shrinking fishing grounds and pumping dirt into waters
Fishermen in Kampot province. Kiripost/Meas Molika
Fishermen in Kampot province. Kiripost/Meas Molika

KAMPOT PROVINCE - Illegal fishing and other factors are impacting the livelihoods of Kampot fishermen, who claim fish stocks are declining.

They also urged authorities to clamp down on fishing offenses and requested more participation from locals to improve the fishing situation.

Ruon Nos, 60, has been a fisherman at Trapeang Sangke community for almost his entire life, from 1979 until today. He wakes up in the morning and spends his days from 8am to 6pm fishing.

About five years ago, he was able to catch between 80 and 100 kilograms of fish a day. Now, he nets from 4 to 10 kilograms. The income he earns from fishing today is about 10 times less compared to many years ago.

“Whenever the [fish] price is down, I can earn 120,000 riel [$30]. If the price [of fish] goes up, sometimes I can earn 150,000 riel [$37.50],” Nos told Kiripost.

He added, “The price of fish does not decrease, but what matters now is fish output falls.​ I can’t find enough fish.”

Fisherman at work in Kampot. Kiripost/Meas Molika
Fisherman at work in Kampot. Kiripost/Meas Molika

The 60-year-old fisherman believes factors causing the fish decline in the area that he lives in include pouring land into sea, shrinkage of fishing grounds and illegal fishing.

“Post​s [conservation boundaries] are now at fishing grounds where fish used to be found. I cannot find any places to do fishing anymore​ and Kilo No.12 [village] has poured soil into the water area,” he said.

“The community is absolutely beautiful and clean already. But I would like to request not to continue to add more border posts. We as legal fishermen don't fish there but outsiders can. They can catch fish through electrofishing,” he added.

He said that the number of fishermen in the community has decreased due to dwindling income. Instead, some have become boat drivers for tourists.

Lim Sophal, chairman of patrol at Trapeang Sangke Community Committee, called on the government to clamp down harder on fishing offenses in Trapeang Sangke community as it impacts the fishing community’s livelihoods.

“Furthermore, I would like to request the government to support more to control illegal fishing since fishing communities see a lot of fishing offenses. Since we have good cooperation with the provincial governor, the deputy governor, we will work together to prevent these fishing crimes.”

Kampot Provincial Fisheries Administration denied allegations of increased fishing crimes and urged citizens to respect existing fishing rules.

“We admit that our control [of illegal fishing] is not good enough, but the amount of fishing offenses are not a lot like they said. We need the cooperation of citizens to make it better,” said an official, who identified himself as Phat, told Kiripost on Monday.

Yim Phally from rights group Adhoc in Kampot province​ said authorities and communities have to work together to solve fishing offenses by patrolling the water more and paying attention.

“Competent authorities must patrol, including the community, because they also have a duty to monitor fishermen who use illegal fishing gear and send it to the police or cooperate with the police to prevent fishing offenses,” Phally told Kiripost.