The Kampong Thom Provincial Administration say that immediately after the June 5 commune council elections, measures will be put in place to make sure that none of the fishing communities throughout the province uses illegal fishing equipment.
Chin Sitha, director of the Fisheries Administration’s (FiA) provincial cantonment, told The Post that the authorities will collect data on the fishing equipment that is being used or stored by each family.
Sitha said the administration made its last warning to all fishermen in its purview in a May 12 notification, ordering them to hand over any illegal devices they had by May 31.
“In the notification, we clearly stated that in cases of non-compliance, police will take action. Now the deadline has come and gone, but we have not seen one fisherman hand in a single piece of illegal equipment,” he said.
Sitha renewed his calls for fishermen in the province to check their fishing equipment again and see if it could be deemed illegal. If they discovered that their gear breached regulations, they should immediately take it to the police. If they did so before the elections they could still avoid fines, he said, adding that the police would soon be carrying out checks in every fishing community.
“If we discover that any family continues to keep or use illegal equipment, the gear will be seized and they will be fined under fisheries law. For serious breaches, we will build case files and refer them to the courts. No exceptions will be made,” he said.
“Our officers do not want to cause difficulties for the fishermen, but we have no choice but to follow legal procedures,” he added.
Sitha said that Kampong Svay district’s Phat Sanday commune and Stoung district’s Peam Bang commune of Kampong Thom province were the first destinations that would be inspected. The sub-commission for the prevention and suppression of fishing crimes planned to collect data there first, as most of the people in both communes lived in floating houses and made their living by fishing.
He said fishing crimes were often discovered in these communes. Local authorities disputed this, saying most of those who committed the crimes came from other provinces.
Phat Sanday commune chief Mono told The Post that his commune consists of 1,258 families, almost all of whom live in floating houses during the rainy season. The majority make their living by fishing every day because they do not own dry land they could cultivate to grow crops. Most of the families are not wealthy, but they do not commit fishing crimes.
“Of course, in the past, offenses have occurred in our commune. However, the perpetrators who were caught by police were fishermen from Pursat, Kandal, Prey Veng and Kampong Chhnang provinces,” he added.
“The people of our commune have no illegal equipment. In the past, two or three electrocution nets were seized here, but I believe there are none here now,” he said.
Mono added that provincial authorities – in collaboration with several ministries and institutions, the private sector and some development partners – were developing the Phat Sunday region into an eco-tourist area to create jobs and improve incomes in the fishing communities, mainly through taking tourists on sight-seeing tours.