Banteay Meanchey province: 30 May 2013, the National Conference on Progress of Community Fisheries after fisheries reform, held at Pneat Pongsat pagoda, brought together 320 participants across the nation to understand progress made and the challenges faced by community fisheries in the sustainable management of natural resources. The objective was to collect recommendations from stakeholders, and to strengthen collaboration and support for empowering the community’s fisheries.
This event was presided over by H.E. YIM Chhaly, Deputy Prime-minister and H.E. NAO Thuok, Director-General of Fisheries Administration. It was co-organized by Fisheries Administration, IUCN, Fisheries Action Coalition Team, Advocacy and Policy Institute, Coalition of Cambodia Fishers and Global Fish Alliance. The event was funded by the European Union, IUCN’s Mekong Water Dialogues, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Finland, Forum SYD, and the McKnight Foundation.
Over the past decade, through adopting a decentralization approach, the Royal Government of Cambodia has carried out consecutive reform in the fisheries sector; handing over rights to local communities for engaging in protecting and managing their fishery resources in sustainable ways. In March 2012, Cambodia government decided to abolish all private fishing lot and transferred them to community fishing areas and conservation zones.
The progress raised by representatives of three Community Fisheries (CFs) during the event were an overall increase in household income generation and fish production, decrease in conflict, and safety improvement. This is because community fisheries have better understanding about laws in the fishery sector, as well as their roles and responsibilities. Fishers no longer receive threats from lot-owners and, in addition, they can access fish resources anywhere without barriers.
Previously, fishers and children were vulnerable to emergency and unpredictable events (mainly storms and heavy rain) as it limited their navigable route for escape. In general, fishers’ livelihoods have improved after the reform of fisheries. However, some challenges still exist; such as deforestation around flooded areas, excessive water extraction for agriculture, the use of illegal fishing gear, fishing activities in conservation areas etc.
According to Fisheries Administration, there are 516 community fisheries nationwide, of which 328 are registered and 32 community fisheries are in the process of registration.
“I appreciate the strong efforts of all community fisheries in fisheries’ management, and local and international NGOs such as FACT (Fisheries Action Coalition Team) and IUCN for building the capacity of community fisheries. This has enabled smooth operation for the conservation and protection of fisheries”, said H.E. NOA Tuok, Director-General of Fisheries Administration.
Mr OM Sovath, Executive Director of the (FACT), stated, “The engagement of all community fisheries through partnership and collaboration with authorities at all levels is an effective way for facilitating the management of fisheries. The participatory management in natural conservation has contributed to the improvement in the livelihood of fishers.”
Mr. KONG Kimsreng, Senior Program Officer, IUCN Cambodia, presented a new EU funded project (2013-2016) “Strengthening Capacity of Fishing Capacity of Fishing Communities in the Tonle Sap to Manage their Natural Resource Sustainably”, currently being implemented in three sites around Tonle Sap ,namely Kampong Pluk, Boeung Chhmar and Plov Tuk. The project is focusing on capacity-building of CFs for negotiating and defining management areas, improving fisheries and natural resources, establishing a coalition of CFs, and encouraging the integration of the Management Plan of CFs into the Community Investment Plan. In addition, he highlighted the situation analysis of CFZ (Community Fishing Zone) in the three sites, conducted by IUCN Cambodia in 2013. One of the major concerns was flooded forest-cutting by the local community and outsiders, including some Vietnamese people. Moreover, the rich and outsider were equipped with illegal fishing gear. This showed the inequity in resource-sharing.
Deputy Prime-minister H.E. Yim Chhaly said, “The fisheries’ sector reform has been newly adopted. Thus, there are a lot of challenges. I recommend that all community fisheries be actively involved in sustaining local fisheries resources. The Fishery Administration must clearly define zoning, inform communities, provide necessary training and cooperate with local authorities to eliminate illegal fishing activities, land encroachment and deforestation in flooded areas. I call on all relevant NGOs, authorities, the Fishery Administration and Community fisheries to cooperate in seeking effective strategies and concrete measures to address the challenges on time. We should work together to make the Government’s fisheries’ sector reforms a success and improve fisheries resources as well as local communities’ livelihoods.”