Traditional fishing ceremony highlights empty nets syndrome

SEA Globe –

An annual fishing ceremony in eastern Cambodia, where only traditional fishing gear is used, casts a light on the issue of falling fish stocks due to upstream hydropower dams and the use of illegal fishing methods.

Wielding handmade bamboo baskets and nylon nets, hundreds of people waded thigh-deep into a muddy lake in eastern Cambodia on Sunday for an annual fish-catching ceremony where only traditional tools are used. The ceremony is held each year after the crop harvest in eastern Tboung Khmum province, located just off the Mekong river, to commemorate the country’s proud fishing history, said local chief Uch Yoeun.

The event – held in Choam Korvean commune, about 250km from the capital Phnom Penh – attracts hundreds of farmers from surrounding villages. They carry weaved baskets of different shapes, eager to try their hand at trapping the freshwater catfish and snakehead fish in the muddy Boeung Kroam lake.

“It has been a tradition since our ancestors’ time,” Uch Yoeun told AFP, adding that only one rule applies in this mass fishing event.

“We only allow traditional fishing tools to be used.”

Authorities guarded Boeung Kroam lake for more than a month before the event – to prevent illegal fishing and ensure there would be enough to catch at Sunday’s event.

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