The Shortage of Fish in Waters of Cambodia Might Lead to Food Scarcity
Tonle Sap river and lake have been providing Cambodians with fish for centuries, but their natural stocks have run dry. Fishermen are complaining that there is less fish in the water, which might lead to a serious food problem. The reason for fish shortages lies in the fact that the population in Cambodia grew in the past decades. But false fishing practices and hydropower dams are also part of the problem.
The lake Tonle Sap is famous for its biodiversity, and it provided Cambodians with 500,000 tons of fish yearly. Some fishermen remember the time when it was enough to step into the water and put your hands in it, and you would get out the fish. But, in recent years, they experience a decline in the catch. It’s not unusual that they fish all day, only to end up empty-handed.
The experts have warned the government in 2018 that they need to work on measures for conservation and mitigation, but they did nothing so far.
The increase in the population is the biggest reason why there are not enough fish in these waters anymore. Cambodia had around six million people back in 1980, but the population reached 16 million in the present day. With more mouths to feed, fishermen had to increase their activities, which led to the fish deficit.
Dams and Illegal Fishing Are Part of the Problem
Dams built on the Mekong river just add to this problem. They literally block the way for fish to get into the lake or river. Currently, China operates five hydropower dams on the Mekong, and the Cambodian government plans to build another two. If that happens, it will further endanger the population of the fish.
Lack of strict fishing regulations in Cambodia is also one of the reasons of this problem. Virtually anyone can engage in fishing and use any method they want.
Occasional and less experienced fishermen use monofilament nylon gillnets. They don’t require any attention, you can just set the net and wait for your catch to flow in. Earlier this year, they found more than 2,000 illicit fishing cases and removed around 900,000 of the fishing net from waters in Cambodia.
The fish deficit can potentially lead to food crises. And it will undoubtedly result in higher prices of the food, which also worries the citizens of Phnom Penh.