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 7th National Fishery Day and 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. Every year, I highly value this event and join in this meaningful event which is organized by the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (MAFF) to appreciate its officials and share my vision and recommendations in order to promote fisheries sector.
Also, in this occasion, let me express my sincere appreciation to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, especially the Fisheries Administration for their close collaboration with the Secretariat of the National and International Ceremony Organizing Committee and provincial authorities in their efforts to organize the 7th National Fishery Day in order to promote the protection and conservation movements as well as the development of our invaluable aqua 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.
Cambodia is very rich in fresh water fishes and the Tonle Sap Lake, which exists for approximately 5000 – 6000 years, is the heart and breeding ground for those essential fishes in our country. The production of our fresh water fishes is ranked 4th in the world after China, India and Bangladesh according to the data from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. However, with respect to the annual fish consumption for each citizen, Cambodia ranks 1st because on average, each Cambodian citizen consumes around 52.4 kg per annum, more than three times compared to global consumption per capita of 16.5 kg. Moreover, the fishery sector provides full-time employment to around 1.4 millions fishermen and to approximately 6 millions people in fisheries-related activities and part-time fishing. Thus, we could consider Cambodia as the fish eating society since fishes are the source of more than 81.5% of total protein that Cambodians received in general. River fishery contributed around 80% to Cambodia’s total fish production and 1/3 of Cambodia’s population earn revenue through fishing and fish sales.
Furthermore, we can consider fish and other aqua life stock as an essential staple food for Cambodians after rice and in addition, rural inhabitants could get easily with little efforts and cheaply from nearby rivers, pounds or lakes. In addition to domestic supply, Cambodia has a long history of exporting aqua products abroad. Beside this, it should be noted that fishery production contributed around 25% to the country’s agricultural production, while subsidiary crop production, animal production and forestry production contributed 52.7%, 15.5% and 6.9% respectively.
Cambodian population currently rise to 14 millions and 80% of whom live in rural areas. Most of them are involved in fisheries or other natural resources exploitation to feed themselves. In the fishery sector, the number of fishermen has increased rapidly. This surge, coupled with limited capability to provide education on the usage of modern technology in fishery sector, and limited public awareness on the importance of natural resources, environment, regulation and the concept of sustainable development, leads to lower aqua resources and other resources, and is still the main constraint to achieving the policy of sustainable use and development of fishery resource and 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 resources.
To enable people participate in the management and sustainable use of fishery resources, the Royal Government, in late 2000, implemented the reform in fishery sector by transferring control to rural communities to enable them participate in decision-making and formulate action plans and development programs for their own localities, and assume responsibility of natural resource management. In particular, the reform has transferred more than 500,000 hectares of fishing space to local communities, 468 fishing communities have been established and the poor can now benefit from this reform.
However, after assuming responsibility, fishing communities still need technical assistance to organize community structure to ensure sustainable use of the resource and better welfare. This reflects the Royal Government’s effort in poverty reduction, promotion of sustainable use of natural resources and equitable distribution of growth by strengthening community-based resource management. Through the establishment and creation of fishing communities, fishery resources have been improved, and that is the starting point of participation from the community in natural resource management and decentralization. We can regard this as a successful accomplishment of the Royal Government’s Rectangular Strategy.
Currently, we are working hard to promote agricultural production growth, in terms of quantity, quality, competitiveness and efficiency. Moreover, the Royal Government has considered a number of sectors relating to natural resources management and biodiversities, including fishery sector, as a priority sector among other sectors in the reform program.
Along with that, we have recognized that the inundated forest is the life of fishery sector and without the inundated forest we cannot be rich in fishes. On the other hand, we all have known that fish is a main source of protein for the people living in the community and of course, all communities have used fishing for food or for earning additional income. Moreover, due to rapid growth of the population around the Tonle Sap River as well as along the Mekong River we have witnessed the over-fishing, which is seriously threatening the types of fishes, which are economically vital. Beside this, there have also been other anarchic actions, causing the loss and degradation of the fish’s shelters. The building of dams, digging of canals for illegal land ownership, resettlement, the transformation of the forest land into agricultural land, the burning of natural forest, and the increase in illegal fishing pressure are also the most serous threatening factors.
Nevertheless, we have to consider that the efficient and sustainable management of natural resources is attached to the appropriate business and will also have to consider about the conservation of fisheries. Reforestation of the inundated forest and the protection of fisheries environment are the significant tasks and most valuable to sustain human lives, animals, plants and other biodiversities for serving the current consumption as well as for our next generations.
In this sense, the increase of willingness, commitment and high responsibility of the authorities at all level, civil servants in the related ministries, especially the local authority and the participation from the local people through the support in all form from the related technical institutions, which have to pay high attention to, under a single vision, which is poverty reduction of the people and the sustainable reservation of the fisheries resources.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank friendship nations, international organizations and all development partners, who have actively participated in the agricultural development projects, especially this important fisheries sector for the cause of development and poverty reduction of the people.
For the basis of consideration on the management and development of the fishery sector, I would like to provide some recommendations to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as well as the fisheries administration, local authorities and concerned ministries for implementation as follows:
1. Although, we have actually achieved many positive achievements, we should not forget the cooperation from local authorities and the joint report from people to the nearby competent authority aiming at contributing to crack down on illegal fishing and other related fishery offenses. In this spirit, we have to continue to preserve the conservation areas appropriately, and continue to curb illegal fishing and take all measures to cooperate with relevant agencies to comprehensively prevent those highly dangerous fishing offenses such as the use of electric instruments and nets.
2. Take firm measures against offenders, who destroy the inundated forest at every place, particularly, in the areas around Tonle Sap Lake, by pushing to create the map for identifying, educating the people about, and protecting the inundated forests, because they are very vital for the fishery sector. At the same time, we must prepare fields for growing inundated trees and set up annual ceremony for replanting inundated trees. We should also consider the building of paths inside the inundated forest to prevent fire on the forest, which always happen yearly.
3. Encourage farmers to dig a small pond for their families, aiming to preserve water for family’s usage, vegetable watering, animal and fish raising, in all places, particularly at places where there is shortage of water and fishes, by encouraging and promoting small scale family fish farming across the country.
4. Encourage the establishment of ore fish ponds communities at local villages-communes across the country, because it is a strategy to increase the amount of fish. Strengthen the existing fishery communities and establish the reservation sites at each community to well protect the natural fishes for long-term use. The fishery sector is sustainable and stable, depending on the fundamental fishery resources; it means that we have to safeguard fish spawning areas, so that the amount of fish could be reproduced and increased. On the other hand, we must pay attention on establishing additional reservation sites at public fishing sites as well as fishery communities, because the reservation site is the last safe place for fish breeding.
5. The Fisheries Administration should provide guidance and techniques to all owners of fishing lots to set up an appropriate reservation site in their lots, aiming at conserving some main fish seeds for upgrading fish stock for years to come. At the same time, according to past experiences, all stream and lake fishing lot businesses have formed their fish hatching sites, aiming to release small fishes into their lots to increase the fish amount and production.6. Competent agencies have to use their utmost effort to collect the revenues from the fishery sector and all resources, taking strong measures on lot owners, who violate the agreement and the record books.
Once again, I would like to highly evaluate the achievements of the Ministry of Agriculture, forestry and Fishery as well as the Fishery Administration has recently achieved. Please continue the tradition of close cooperation with agencies concerned, local authorities, development partners and the local people.
Finally, I would like to wish Your Venerable Monks, Excellencies, Lok Chum Teav, Ladies, Gentlemen, National and International Guests, Students and Compatriots the 4 Gems of Buddhist Blessings: Longevity, Nobility, Health and Strength.