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Regional News

Khmer Times

Cambodia needs to diversify its food sources and improve marine conservation efforts amid dwindling numbers of fish stocks in the Mekong River, which remains one of the main sources of fish for Cambodians, experts said yesterday.

During a Sustainable Mekong Research Network (Sumernet) forum in Phnom Penh yesterday, experts said the government needed to improve efforts to ensure the fish population in the Mekong River remains at a sustainable level without compromising people’s dependency on the vast body of water.

“Cambodia needs to reduce its dependency on fish. This means diversification through farming and livestock so that cattle and chicken is available as a protein replacement,” Eric Baran, a senior scientist at international nonprofit WorldFish, said during a panel discussion yesterday. “Also more fruit and vegetables.”

Experts also called on the government to encourage farming communities to use their flooded paddy fields as fish ponds to increase productivity and diversify the source of their catch.

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Regional News

Vietnam Net Bridge

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) launched a regional project to enhance the resilience of wetlands in Lower Mekong countries on the occasion of World Wetlands Day (February 2).      

Funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), and to be implemented until 2020, the project builds climate resilience by harnessing the benefits of wetlands in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Việt Nam.

Mekong WET will help the four countries address their commitments to the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands, and to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

With wetlands featured as a key ecosystem, the project also supports governments in implementing their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) under the Convention on Biological Diversity and pursuing their commitments on climate-change adaptation and mitigation under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

There are a total of 28 Ramsar sites (wetlands of international importance) in the four Mekong WET countries. The project will develop management plans, with a focus on climate-change adaptation and resilience building, in 10 selected Ramsar sites, and improve regional collaboration on transboundary wetlands management.

This will include the sharing of best practices, as well as capacity building for 150 wetland management staff and 300 community representatives.

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Regional News

National Geographic

Next to the road leading into Angkor Thom—one of the walled cities that make up Angkor, the ancient Khmer empire in Cambodia—stands a solitary but crumbling bridge with corbeled arches made out of recycled sandstone blocks. The bridge seems to be of little significance; no water runs beneath it. Few, if any, of the tour buses shuttling visitors to the temple grounds every day stop for tourists to have a look.

But to Dan Penny, an expert in environmental history who has studied the Angkor civilization for many years, the bridge tells an intriguing story. Its damage in the recent past, he says, is a reminder that while it was water—or the control of it—that built the city of Angkor, it was also water that helped destroy it.

The cause of the Angkor empire’s demise in the early 15th century long remained a mystery. But researchers have now shown that intense monsoon rains that followed a prolonged drought in the region caused widespread damage to the city’s infrastructure, leading to its collapse.

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Regional News

VietNamNet Bridge

Ca ho (Catlocarpio siamensis), vo co (Pangaius sannitwongsei) and tra dau (Pangasianodon gigas) living in the Mekong Delta are all large-size fish which can reach 300 kilos in weight and three meters in length. They are all in danger of extinction.As they have enormous size and always causes big waves when whisking their tail, the fish are called ‘sea monster of Mekong Delta’.

Scientists said the fish were found in large quantities in the Mekong Delta half a century ago, but they have become scarce and their names have been listed in the Red Book as endangered species.

The gradual disappearance of the precious fish has prompted many scientists to conduct research and save them with artificial breeding.

Vo co, or Pangaius sannitwongsei, is a species of giant freshwater fish in the shark catfish family (Pangasiidae). Though it is aggressive, its population has declined drastically mainly due to overfishing. It is now considered critically endangered.

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Regional News

The Phnom Penh Post

A spate of reports by WorldFish, an international organisation that researches how fisheries can help reduce poverty and hunger, illustrates how the fishing industry supports the economic survival of many of the Kingdom’s inhabitants.

The reports give an inside look at the role fisheries play in driving employment in Cambodia, and provide a deep-dive into the minutia of the industry, such as fish prices and profit margins. They also come at a time when fish populations are increasingly threatened by controversial hydropower dam construction.

There is a strong demand around Cambodia for fresh fish, fish paste, fish sauce and fermented, dried and smoked fish. This demand drives employment for fishermen, middlemen, wholesalers, retailers, processors and exporters, one report noted.

In fact, more than 3 million people depend on the Tonle Sap lake for their livelihoods. And according to Pianporn Deetes of International Rivers, the food and agricultural systems of 60 million people hinge on the Mekong’s seasonal flood pulse and ecosystems.

What’s more, the reports argue, the economic benefits are probably underestimated.

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