Illegal fishing destroying Kep’s ocean ecology

The Cambodia Daily
24 October 2015

A dozen diesel-powered boats crawl across Kep Bay, creating a rumble so low that it shakes the pier. They drag weighted, electrified nets across the inshore shallows, scooping up sea life indiscriminately and destroying vital breeding grounds in the process. And they trawl so close to shore that you can hear their radio exchanges.

It’s a familiar, almost nightly, scene here. It causes nearly irreversible ecological destruction and creates tension between local fishing communities. And it is completely illegal, although authorities often turn a blind eye to it.

“Most of these boats fish be­tween the mainland and Koh Ton­sai,” Kong Yorn said on Thurs­day, nodding toward a fleet of about 30 trawlers moored to the pier he owns in the village of Prek Tanin, known locally as Phoum Chhok, or Shock Village, for its residents’ penchant for using electric currents to stun their catch.
“From here to Koh Tonsai, there is no water deeper than four me­ters,” he said.

Under Article 49 of the Fisheries Law, trawling inshore areas (those less than 20 meters deep) is forbidden. Under Article 20, using electric fishing gear is strictly prohibited in all areas. Both crimes are punishable by jail time, and authorities found to be complicit or willfully ignorant also face prison terms and fines.

But despite the regulations, fishing boats along Kep’s coastal strip continue to trawl the ocean unobstructed, many with electrified nets.

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