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FEATURE STORY February 12, 2020

Strong Ownership from Communities Can Help Save Endangered Fish Species

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Fisheries are essential to food security in Cambodia. Freshwater fish and aquatic animals from the Mekong contribute more than two-thirds of the total protein intake for Cambodians.
  • Under the Mekong Integrated Water Resource Management Project Phase 3 (MIWRM3), 70 community fisheries were established, 100 engine boats and equipment were distributed to Community Fisheries, and 330 out of 500 poor Community Fisheries families have received a small grant to help diversify their sources of livelihoods.
  • With strong support from the provincial and local authorities and the community fisheries, illegal fishing activities have been reduced by 30 percent since the project began in mid-2018.

Sitting in the front row at a community meeting with dozens of people, 66-year-old Chhoun Nem listened carefully to a question a fellow participant asked about why it has taken so long for villagers to actively engage in community fisheries.

Suddenly, Nem stood up and responded, “We all need to wake up now to save our endangered fish species. There are a lot of illegal fishing activities here. If we are all still in a sleep, we will no longer have any fish left for our young generation.”

Nem is a member of Pong Toek Community Fisheries in O’Rey Commune, Thala Borivat District of Stung Treng province along the Upper Mekong River. This community fishery was established to crack down on illegal fishing activities and preserve endangered fish species.

Another member of Pong Toek Community Fisheries, Tey Meth, 63, who lost his left leg during the civil war in early 1990s, echoed Chhoun Nem’s sentiment about illegal fishing activities in their village.

“Despite the fact that I cannot join the patrol team on the boat in the river to catch the illegal fishing boats, I keep reporting any illegal acts to our team when I see them,” he said.

Tum Nyro, head of Stung Treng​ Provincial Fisheries Containment, shared his concerns over the severe decline of fish due to illegal fishing activities at the deep poles of the Upper Mekong River during dry season. Deep poles are the spawning ground of the endangered fish species, including Irrawaddy dolphins.


"We all need to wake up now to save our endangered fish species. There are a lot of illegal fishing activities here. If we are all still in a sleep, we will no longer have any fish left for our young generation."
Chhoun Nem
Member of Pong Toek Community Fisheries in O’Rey Commune

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The Mekong Integrated Water Resource Management Project Phase 3 (MIWRM3), a World Bank financed project that began in 2016, has helped establish 70 community fisheries in Stung Treng and Kratie provinces, particularly along the Mekong River. It helps community fisheries develop their management plans, demarcate fishing areas and conservation zones, enforce fishing regulations, and evaluate management plans.

“The project has come at the right time and the right moment,” Tum Nyro said. “Now, community fisheries are more active, and they are working hand-in-hand with us to crack down on any form of illegal fishing activities in their communities. I really appreciate their strong ownership.”  

With strong support from the provincial and local authorities and the community fisheries, illegal fishing activities have been reduced by 30 percent.

The project also supports construction of a fish hatchery that can produce roughly 3 million fish fingerlings per year, which are then released to natural pounds, streams and rivers and distributed to farmers who want to raise fish with technical support.

The project also provides small grants to poor families who participate in the community fisheries to help them diversify their sources of livelihood and build small-scale infrastructure such as community ponds and culverts. Families who have received grants have used them to raise fish, chicken, pigs and cows to generate income.

The project also supports the efficient management of water resources by financing hydrological and meteorological monitoring stations, field surveys, water resource modeling, river basin profile studies, and water resources monitoring and assessment programs. It also helps strengthen the capacity of the Cambodia National Mekong Committee, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, and Provincial Departments of Water Resources and Meteorology on water resources management and transboundary water management activities.

So far the project has established 70 community fisheries, built 11 small-scale infrastructure projects, distributed 100 engine boats and equipment to community fisheries, provided small grants to 330 out of 500 poor Community Fisheries families (US$295.00 to raise fish, chicken, pigs or cows), and elected more than 30 percent of women in Community Fisheries Committee to approve small-scale infrastructure and livelihood projects.

Tum Nyro urges all people come together to protect the endangered fish species and their spawning ground, otherwise the fish population continue to decline.

“It doesn’t matter how high your rank is, if our endangered fish species cannot be protected, you will have no natural fish to eat,” he warned.



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