Fisheries production in Cambodia was valued at $1,712,800,000, reaching 856,400 tonnes in 2021, down by more than 8.5 per cent from 936,300 tonnes a year earlier, according to data from the 2020 and 2021 annual fisheries reports.
Freshwater capture fisheries and aquaculture accounted for 383,050 tonnes and 348,350 tonnes, respectively, down by 7.3 per cent and 13.0 per cent from 413,200 tonnes and 400,400 tonnes in 2020.
On the contrary, marine capture fisheries represented 125,000 tonnes, up by 1.9 per cent from 122,700 tonnes in 2020.
Last year’s fishery exports weighed in at 3,469 tonnes, down more than three per cent from 3,590 tonnes in 2020.
At the annual review meeting on the fisheries sector, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon said that work to promote the implementation of fisheries management laws has encountered many complex problems.
Still, he expects the Fisheries Administration (FiA) to achieve better results in 2022, through improved cooperation with stakeholders.
“The main thing is to push on with strengthening the implementation of the recommendations made in 2021, in a way consistent with the current context of the socio-economic situation,” he said.
This year, the FiA should prioritise key issues such as expanding areas for fish farming – in collaboration with domestic and foreign private sector actors – and conducting a feasibility study on the restoration of the Boeung Tonle Chhma area within the Tonle Sap biosphere reserve in Kampong Thom province, for the conservation of native fish species as well as aquaculture, the minister said.
Other priorities include support for research on fish breeding at all corresponding public and private centres, and assistance for fish farmers who seek to set up clusters and networks that are designed to ensure the adequate supply, quality, market and price of fisheries, as well as efficient credit flows, he added.
Ung Try, deputy director of the FiA, a unit under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, ascribed the decline in freshwater capture fisheries to climate change, low water levels, illegal deforestation and encroachment on freshwater swamp forest habitats of fish.
By the same vein, aquaculture production declined due to a Covid-19-driven drop in market demand, he told The Post on January 25.
During the Covid era, fisheries exports have been low, with the bulk being shipped to neighbouring countries, he said.
Try was hesitant to provide a clearer picture of a potential fisheries production landscape going into 2022, citing unpredictable water fluctuations and myriad other interrelated issues.
“However, the FiA is working to further strengthen and expand aquaculture. For example, Cambodia is negotiating with Chinese authorities to open a direct channel for exports of ‘pra’ fish to China,” he said.
“Pra” in the Khmer language quintessentially refers to Pangasius djambal, but could more broadly describe many – but not all – shark catfish of the Pangasius (P) genus (“po” types such as P larnaudii and P sanitwongsei being notable counterexamples) or other genera in the Pangasiidae family such as Helicophagus and Pangasianodon, but not Pseudolais.
Cambodian Aquaculturist Association (CCC) president Sok Raden previously told The Post that weak market demand and low prices last year sapped aquaculture of much of its vitality.
However, he posited that a green light from Beijing to export Cambodian “pra” fish directly to China would inject a shot of adrenaline to the sector.
“Cambodian aquaculturists are all ready to invest more in fish farming if they have a market with acceptable prices,” Raden said.