– Your Venerable Buddhist Monks,
– Your Excellencies Ambassadors to the Kingdom of Cambodia,
– Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished National and International Guests,
– Dear Compatriots and Students!
Today, I have a great pleasure to join you all in the celebration of this auspicious 5th National Fishery Day. This event has been considered as a traditional event in Cambodia and is organized every year by the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (MAFF) to appreciate the value of fish as a significant source of food for our people from all walks of life. Taking this auspicious occasion, I would like to thank and congratulate the management of the MAFF for organizing this 5th National Fishery Day, and also, I would like to pay my respect to the all Venerable Buddhist Monks and extend my greetings to all our compatriots, students and all level of civil servants who are here today at this joyful gartering for their warm welcome being extended to me in the celebration of this meaningful National Fishery Day.
Also, in this occasion, let me express my sincere appreciation to the Department of Fisheries of the MAFF for their close collaboration with the secretariat of the National and International Ceremony Organizing Committee and provincial authority in their efforts to organize the 5th National Fishery Day in order to promote the protection and conservation movements as well as the development of our invaluable and bio-resources, in particular to raise the awareness among all citizens, civil servants, government institutions and the private sector on the importance of fishery resources and to ensure its sustainable use and management.
As your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, students and all of us are well aware off, Cambodia is very rich in fresh water fishes and the Tonle Sap Lake, which has been existing for approximately 5000 – 6000 years, is the heart and breading ground for those essential fish in our country. The production of our fresh water fishes is ranked 4th in the world after China, India and Bangladesh. However, with respect to the annual fish consumption for each citizen, Cambodia ranks 1st because on an average, each Cambodian consumed around 37.5 kg per annum, more than two times compare to the average amount of 15.8 kg consumed by the people in the rest of the world. Fishes are the source of more than 75% of total protein that Cambodians received in general. Furthermore, we can consider the fish and other life stock as an essential staple food for Cambodians after rice. In addition, fish consists of lysine, vitamin A and calcium that rural inhabitants could get easily with little efforts and cheaply from near by rivers, pounds or lakes. Thus, we could consider Cambodia as the “fish eating society”. Moreover, after serving the domestic food requirement, Cambodia has a long history of exporting fish products abroad. And the fishery sector provides full time employment to around 1.4 millions of fishermen and to approximately 6 millions people in the fishery sector for related works such as part time fishermen, fishery product processing activities, boat builders, fishery equipment producers, fishery product retailers and other fishery related activities.
By understanding the value and importance of the fishery sector for its contribution to the national economic development and in fulfilling the needs of our people, especially those living in rural areas; our people have a long lasting tradition in protecting and preserving the al types of natural resources such as fish, inundated forest and other types forest, wildlife and mineral resources. Actually we can see the sculptures on the wall of Angkor Wat temple as the evidence.
More than two decades ago, after every Khmer citizen has survived the genocidal regime, we all have made utmost efforts and with high patriotism in fulfilling our duties to overcome difficulties for the cause of peace, national reconciliation, democracy and the rehabilitation and development of our country.
Up to now, we have achieved full peace that is the most important factor in the development process and series of successful elections such as the National Assembly election, Senate election and communal election which reflected the political stability and commitment of Cambodia in maintaining peace and social stability. I believe that this is the initial stage of development and starting from this point on we have made a lot of prideful achievements for the benefit of future development. In general, for the last three years, we have achieved high economic growth and reduced poverty.
The war in Cambodia has resulted in serious damages such as the lack of human resources and weak institutions that are the main obstacles to achieve the set targets. Managing the human capital after war is a very complicated issue due to the lack of trust, information, misleading propaganda, lack of knowledge and conflicting views. In that situation, the development must focus on healing loss of human resources based on building the people’s confidence on the government. Hence, the policy was to urgently address the food security when each family lived in subsistence. Therefore, to meet their daily demand, most of rural people have utilized the natural resources in an unsustainable manner resulting in the loss and degradation of national resources and environment.
In natural resources management, the government faced a tradeoff between strictly manage the natural resources and maintain the livelihood of the people. We clearly know that by allowing the people to have free access to the national resources will not result in an effective and sustainable national resources management, especially while the population increased to 14 millions and 80% of whom live in rural areas. Most of them are involved in fishery or other natural resources exploitation to meet their daily needs. The government also foresaw that the lack of knowledge and law enforcement as well as the people’s awareness will accelerate the speed of national resources destruction. However, the people’s daily livelihoods can not wait until we have strong and efficient institutions, thus we have chosen the people’s livelihoods as the priority in managing the natural resources. This policy is not perfect, but we subjected it to the livelihoods of the people.
Given that the alternative employment is limited and our agriculture sector still relies on weather, Cambodian rural people make their living particularly on natural resources such as fishery and forestry resources, as employment opportunities in making revenue, food and safety net, i.e. to protect themselves from unpredicted risk and in case of emergency.
In the fishery sector, the number of fishermen has increased gradually due to mass-growing population, limited agricultural land, and less employment options in the service and manufacturing sectors. This surge in the number of fishermen, coupled with limited capability to provide education on the usage of modern technology in fishery sector, and limited understanding of general public on the importance of natural resources, environment, regulation and the concept of sustainable development, trigger destructive effect on the fishery resource and other resources, are still the main constraints to achieving the policy of sustainable use and development of fishery resource an other natural resources in general. National research revealed that Cambodian natural resources have undergone dramatic changes for the last 5 years, especially fishery and forestry. The study showed that by 2010 there will be a soar in demand for bio-species in parallel with population growth rate of 2% per annum which going to require a great attention to conserve the ecosystem for the nation and people, particularly within 5 prioritized areas of Tonle Sap Lake, Mekong River, Cardamon mountain range, northern and eastern highland areas.
Having seen these key problems, at the end of 2000 the Royal Government of Cambodia has made reforms in the fishery sector by empowering the rural communities to manage and use fishery resources directly which is a better and efficient mechanism, that enable them to actively participate in preparing planning and development program at their local communities, by both being the beneficiary to and to be self-responsible in the management of those natural resources. So far, as an outcome from the fishery reform policy, we have allocated more than a half million square hectare of fishing lots for family-based fishing and established a total number of 509 fishery communities according to the report made a moment ago by His Excellency Chan Sarun, Minister of Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery. However, after the communities have received the right to exploit those resources, they still need the technical assistance to design the management structure of the communities in order to ensure a sustainable use of the resource and enhanced the livelihoods of the community they live in.
As we are well aware off, although the agriculture, forestry and fishery sectors are still under the great influence of nature, the improvement in irrigation infrastructure and the increased in the capacity of the people at all level, especially farmers’ capacity, we have enabled these sectors to constituted about 30% of gross domestic product (GDP), in which the fishery sector contributed about 30% to the entire agriculture sector. It is worth noting that the Cambodian economy has grown at averaged rate of 9.6% during 1999-2006. Besides, since 2004 it reached 11.2%. In 2005, the economic growth reached an unprecedented rate of 13.5% and was maintained at 10.4% in 2006.
These are the evidences of great efforts of the Royal Government of Cambodia regarding its policies on poverty reduction and promoting the sustainable use of natural resources and equitable share of economic prosperity by strengthening community-based management of natural resources. With the establishment of fishery community and its quality, fishery resources have improved. It is the starting point of participatory natural resources management from communities in a true decentralized fashion. And indeed, it can be considered as the achievement resulting from the fishery reform policy prescribed in theRectangular Strategy of the Royal Government of Cambodia.
At the present time, we all have actively worked very hard to achieve production growth, both in terms of quantity and quality, competitiveness and economic efficiency in agricultural sector. On the other hand, the Royal Government of Cambodia has considered other sectors relevant to natural resources and ecosystem management, whereas the fishery sector is one of key prioritized sectors to be reformed. Taking this opportunity, in addition to the recommendations that I had raised during the Stocktaking ceremony on fishery performance on the 9th April 2007, I would like to provide additional recommendations for consideration and implementation as follows:
1- Prepare strategy for increasing the natural fish stock through various means such as protecting the natural environment around fish habitats during dry season and protecting the environment for fish spawning as well as encouraging a broad practice of releasing the fish at villages, communes, communities, schools, pagodas, hospitals and fishing lots. At the same time, we must try to establish more community fish’s ponds and conservation areas at natural water boundary, community, and rice fields so that our country can become once again well known for a saying that goes “wherever there is water there will be fish”.
2- Must promote aquaculture to become a nation wide movement for raising fish in ponds, BER and SORNG (Khmer traditional equipments), canal and irrigation network, especially in rice field as a mean to change the people’s habit of relying on natural fishing methods to becoming fish farmers through traditional and modern aquaculture. We must also consider about the capacity and potential of aquaculture both at salt water and fresh water zones by encouraging more active private sector investment into the sector. Hence, there must be some kinds of aquaculture research institutions both at salt water and fresh water zones to conduct research and develop aquaculture in order to catch up with the neighboring countries and the world.
3- Must improve the management capacity, conservation, protection, and development of the fishery sector to comply with the LAW ON FISHERY which was adopted and promulgated since 2006 by strictly enforcing this law, especially by taking effective measures to stop large scale and serious illegal fishing methods such as the use of mosquito-net, catching small fish during rising water season, poisonous and all forms of electrocute devices.
4- Authority at all levels, particularly the municipal-provincial governor must take measures to prevent the anarchic looting of inundated forests and mangrove forests. Hence, all concerned authorities, must cooperate with one another with high responsibility and determination to confiscate those areas and return them back to the state because they are the life and blood of the fishery sector.
5- Must strengthen the fishery community and its management capacity. Here we must pay particular attention on empowering the rural community so that they can actively participate and increase their responsibility in managing their own natural resources by making the fishery community to become a production chain and fishery processing specialists following the principle of one village one product to meet market demand that allow them to earn income for improving their community livelihoods.
6- Must promote the awareness on the importance of fishery for livelihoods in order to embed the understanding and promote wider participation from the people by making it the most important work that need to be done constantly in all forms such as through TV and Radio broadcasting, songs, movies and short documentary films which I already recommended is currently being carried out by the ministry. In this regards, I would like the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery to cooperate with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports to incorporate the importance of fishery sector in the national study curriculum.
In short, we have to participate together and consider that the effective and sustainable natural resources management must links to appropriate business practices and conservations, reforestation of the inundated forests and the fishery environmental protection. This work is important to sustain the lives of human, animals, trees and other biodiversities for the sake of current and future consumption. In this regard, the increased in the willingness, commitment and responsibility of all-hierarchical authorities, especially local authorities as well as the participation from local people through all kind of supports from relevant technical institutions is the obligation that we need to focus on under the shared vision of poverty reduction and sustainable fishery conservation.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank all the friend countries, international organizations and all development partners that have actively participated in the agriculture development project, especially in the fishery sector that is the driver for development and poverty reduction of our people. I highly appreciate the achievement made by fishery administration during the last year under the close cooperation with local authorities, relevant institutions as well as the people in the fishery community.
Also in this 5th National Fishery Day, I would like to appeal to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery, Fishery Administration in particular, relevant ministries/institutions, local authorities and all-level of competencies as well as all the people to put further efforts to maintain our fishery resources in a sustainable manner. I would like to appeal to friend countries, national and international organizations and development partners to continue to support and participate with the government in protecting the fishery resources for the benefit of Cambodian people toward economic development and poverty reduction. Finally, I would like to wish all of you with Five Gems of Buddhist Blessings.