– Your Venerable Buddhist Monks,
– Your Excellencies, Ambassadors to the Kingdom of Cambodia,
– Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
– National and International Guests,
– Dear Beloved Citizen, Teachers and Students,
Today, I am most delighted to join you all to celebrate the “National Fishery” Day for the forth times, especially to have an opportunity to pay respect to our Venerable Monks here and to visit our compatriots, all teachers, students and civil servants during this important event.
On this occasion, I would like to express my utmost and sincere appreciation to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), and especially to the Fisheries Department for the initiative in organizing this “National Fisheries Day”, in close collaboration with the local authorities to mobilize movements among the population, civil servants at all levels and private sectors to protect, preserve and develop our valuable natural resources, in particular that of fishery stock, aiming at ensuring sustainable management and use of fishery resources.
Cambodia is a country with plentiful fresh water fish stock, especially in the Tonle Sap River, the breeding ground for many fish species and with the capacity to feed millions of people whose livelihood depends on fishing related activities. Thus, we all shall exert our utmost efforts to protect those natural resources. Moreover, our population have always had a good tradition in preserving natural resources, including wildlife, flora and fauna, and forestry since the old time. The reason is that we all understand about the significance of natural resources in providing us with many tremendous benefits to support the livelihoods and standards of livings of our people from one generation to another.
As I have already highlighted earlier, Tonle Sap River has been an important habitat for fish that could feed millions of people whose lives depend on fishing up until recent times. At the same time, we are very proud that Cambodia is indeed full of fish along the rivers, lakes, ponds, tributaries, puddles, creeks and channels which extended to the low-lying as well as farm land that makes it agreed with a famous Khmer’s saying “Wherever there is water, there will be fish”.
Moreover, we all knew that Cambodian people in general like to eat fish because it is the source of food which can easily be found allmost everywhere; hence the fishery resource is indeed crucial in providing food for every Cambodian. Therefore, we must try our best to preserve and sustain the National Fishery resources for our young generations to come.
As I have already mentioned earlier that National Fishery resources still remains significant in supporting the lives of millions of people, it also represents a crucial part of the food security as the source of protein and income as well as providing jobs to approximately 2 million people. However, due to the poverty situation among the rural populations many were forced to make their livings on the available natural resources to support their daily demand for food which was done in an endless form and contributed to the destruction and depletion of the natural resources and environment. The most imminent challenge is that we still have not actually had a sufficient network of broadcasting the information and the use of technology is still very limited. Moreover, this, coupled with the lack of knowledge on the importance of natural resources, environment and issues relating to sustainable development among the general population, makes it another significant issue which contributes to the depletion of natural resources and becomes a challenging issue for planning a sensible use of the natural resources.
In order to address these issues we have been strongly determined to handing over the authority to the rural community so that farmers can actively participate in the planning and responsible for natural resources management on its own. Indeed, for the last several years, we have done reforms in fisheries by reducing size of fishing lots over half million hectare and converted to family-based fisheries and established 448 fishery communities devoted for community-based management as well as for sustainable use of the resources. Indeed, the reform is not only to enable people to access the resources and manage such important fishery resources, but also enable community to obtains user rights over the resources and arrange their own management system to assure that they would use the resources sustainably and reduce the poverty level in the long run.
All these are the important efforts made by the Royal Government in its thrust of poverty reduction and equitable distribution of fruits from economic growth, as we are currently putting in place and expand the community-based fishery management through establishing fishery communities across provinces and municipalities. Along with the establishment of fishery communities, we have made some improvement in the fishery sector and this is a starting point of the contribution from the communities in resources management following our decentralization approach. This is a fundamental of the Royal Government of Cambodia’s win-win policy introduced during the past mandate as well as in this third legislative mandate of National Assembly. Apart from that, fisheries have also contributed to the GDP growth, as our policy is to ensure a stable long-term economic growth at an average of 6-7% per annum.
Recently, the Law on Fisheries was adopted by the National Assembly in late March this year, which is now coming into effect. I hope that the new law will be an effective tool in maintaining, protecting, and conserving and developing fishery resources for our next generations to be prosperous like in any other developed countries.
Presently, we observed the decline in fishery resources for some fish species due to the change in natural environment coupled with increasing needs of people for fishes that generally induces over-fishing or increases fish catches. Therefore, we should not be dependent on national resources alone; we should change our habit from being just a fisher to become a fish farmer. Thus, we shall promote the development of aquatic farming countrywide, especially the family-based fish farming by breading good quality baby fishes which are of high economic value and extend them to the farmers. This indeed will help target and address the issue of over-fishing in our natural fishing reserves.
To overcome this issue, we shall make an utmost effort to rigorously enforce the law, and especially to continue an effective crackdown on the use of unsustainable fishing tools such as those small-hole nets and electrocute fishing tools, for example, the abuses in using small-hole nets to fish baby fishes along Mekong River and creeks during early rainy season in June and July each year. At the same time, the anarchic encroachment and destruction of inundated forest that is a home for fish breeding is a hot issue that our competent authorities, especially provincial and municipal authorities, must involve in protecting and seizing back for state’s assets in the sense that all of these offenses are acts that root out fishery resources. We need to create more conservative stations and protected areas in order to increase natural stocks by focusing on providing rights and power to rural communities enabling farmers to actively participate and be responsible for national resources on their own.
In this sense, I would like to emphasize that we need to adhere to good practices and promote the awareness on the importance of fishery resources to daily life, on fishery environment, on improvement, management and sustainable use of national resources and on strengthening protected areas in order to further improve environmental management of ecological systems of Tonle Sap, wetland areas and costal zones. All theses actions could be taken based on the necessary needs and deep knowledge about the science in managing the development of national resources and maintaining a balance of ecological system and biodiversities.
In many occasions, I use to remind every Cambodians that effective and sustainable management of natural resources by linking the development projects with the conservation of fisheries and forestry, reforestation, aquatic farming and environmental protection is the most important and valuable job for sustaining human life and that of animals and other biodiversities. These natural resources are really important for daily life of our people especially for the poor. This has become a key objective of poverty reduction, which the Royal Government strongly targets in its current strategy and the National Strategic Development Plan that provides a specific framework for poverty reduction efforts in the next five years.
In this sense, I would like to appeal to all local people to use fishery resource in a sustainable way for the sake of your own sake and your community, get rid of using unsustainable fishery tools, such as small-hole nets, mosquito nets, electrocute tools, poisonous substances, and catching baby fishes so on and so forth. Moreover, we need to take care of flooded forest areas because these inundated forest areas are the most important places for fish nesting and feeding. Thus we need to spare no efforts in well maintaining this resource.
Therefore, I would like to instruct the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the department of fisheries to promote fish farming in all forms including farming in lakes, ponds, cages in river (BER), and even rice fields and canals or irrigation systems. In doing that, we can manage to reduce the pressure of overexploitation on natural resources and this will contribute to enhancing the awareness and broader participation among local people.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to express my thanks to all friendly countries and international organizations for their active support and contribution to agriculture sector development, especially to this fisheries sector, for the cause of development and poverty reduction in Cambodia.
Finally, may I wish Your Venerable Monks, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the five gems of Buddhist blessing.