Your Venerable Buddhist Monks,
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Compatriots and Students,
Today it is my distinct honor and pleasure to join you all Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, our Compatriots and all the Students to joyfully celebrate the 3rd National Fishery Day, here at the Beung Sne (Love Lake), Prey Angkunh Village, Prek Kondeang Commune, Peam Ro District of Prey Veng Province.
First, let me express my sincere appreciation to the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry as well as the Department of Fisheries for their utmost efforts in organizing this important National Fishery Day to promote the protection and conservation movement as well as the development of our invaluable natural resource, especially this fishery resource, to raise awareness among citizens, state and private sector employees from all walks of life about the management and sustainable use of Cambodia’s fishery resource.
As we all aware, Cambodia is very rich of fresh water fishes, especially Beung Tonle Sap Lake is an important stock of such fishes that can feed millions of people and support many whose livelihoods depend on fishing. In this sense, we all have to exert our efforts to protect all these natural resources and conserve it for our future generation.
In this spirit, the Royal Government has adopted the reform program for fishery sector during the Second Legislature of the National Assembly according to the national policy strategy for poverty reduction. It has provided chances for population to have more opportunity in conducting fishery activities to sustain their livelihoods. In this connection, we have reduced more than 56% of fishing lots which is equal around half of million hectares. Furthermore, we have established a total of 375 fishery communities in order to ensure continuity in management and use of fisheries and improving the living standards of fisher families by equitably distributing fishing catches to those living along fishing areas.
This National Fishery Day is an evidence of our Royal Government’s commitment in ensuring both food security and conservation of fish species within natural environment. Presently, the national fishery resources have reduced due to over-fishing, use of illegal fishing equipments and destroyed flooded forest areas, the places for fish nesting, along with natural disasters such as continuing droughts especially during the years 2004 and 2005. This has resulted in drying out of many fish habitat areas that leads to the disappearance of different fish species and affects fish reproduction during the rainy season.
Indeed, droughts affect not only fishes in rivers and lakes but also leads to extinction of many bio-species and water habitants. Furthermore, at present there are still cases of many illegal fishing activities such as fishing during restricted season, use of explosive materials, electric tools, poison, tight nets and other destructive fishing equipments and practices.
Thus, to prevent the devastation we all have to exert our efforts to preserve our fishery resource by putting an end to the use of illegal equipment across the country.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to take note that, more than two decades ago, our Khmer nation survives from the genocide thanks to the liberation day of 7 January 1979. We have all worked to overcome difficulties for the cause of peace, national reconciliation, democracy and the rehabilitation and development of our country. We could say that we have achieved full peace in 1998 and this is a rare and priceless opportunity to develop our nation. All the achievements attained to fulfill those causes are worth of intense pride by the entire Cambodia nation in new millennium, creating its great historical record out of the tragedy of war, isolation and uncertainty, moving forward as a free nation with solidarity to reclaim its destiny in building a nation of progress, prosperity and harmony. Moreover, our survival and great patriotism have established a strong synergy and hope for Cambodia’s resurgence and revitalization.
Nevertheless, we admit that pervasive poverty among the rural people has forced them to exploit the natural resources to fulfill their basis needs in unsustainable way that have caused the degradation of natural resources and environment
Furthermore, limited access to information and weak information technology, coupled with the lack of understanding by the public on the importance of natural resources and the environment and the concepts of sustainable development, contribute to the degradation of natural resources and constrain the formulation and implementation of a program of rational development.
At the same time, to address such issues we have handed over the management to rural community enable people to actively participate in preparing planning and programs and to responsible themselves in natural resources management. Indeed, we have done some reforms in fishery including the reduction of more than a half square hectare of fishing lots and handed back for family-based fishing and established more than 375 fishery communities for management and sustainable exploit the resources as well as to promote accessibility of poor people to such a valuable resources. This is the effort of the Royal Government to reduce poverty and enhance sustainable and equitable economic benefits in which the Royal government implement and expand community based fishery management through establishing fishery community in each and every cities/provinces in the country. As the result, fishery resources seem improve, which is a real start of participatory natural resources management from the community. F actuality for the early start of fishery community, difficulty and conflict are unavoidable. After adoption the sub-decree on fishery community management by the Council of Minister on May 20, 2005, I hope that there will be improvement in this.
At the moment, we observe the significant drop in fisheries due to the changes in natural environment combining with the increases in social demand that ignite the over exploitation In addition, illegal fishing such as electrocute, mosquito-net fishing, dewater fishing, and breeding season fishing make thing worst and dangerously lead to the distinction of our fishes while our next generation will suffer. This can be resolved by putting more effort to enforce the law, fine, and penalize offenders particularly effectively restrict mosquito-net and electrocute fishing as well as take measure for the competent who back those illegal acts.
Under this framework, we have to set up several more conservation lots to increase fishing stock by concentrating on providing rights to rural community that is part of the Royal Government reforms in order to enable them to actively participate and self responsible in natural resources management in general and fish resources to be specific. At the same time, we should change fishers from fishing to fish raising. In this regard, I would like to highlight that we would not rely only on natural resources, but have to promote development of aquaculture all over the country, especially family based fish raising, through research on breeding domestic baby fish with high economic value and disseminate to the farmers to release pressure on over fishing.
Moreover, we should well implement and promote the education of environment of fishery, the improvement of management and exploitation of natural resources in sustainable way, the enhancement of natural protected areas, and the improvement of ecosystem of Tonle Sap, wetland and costal areas. These activities are possible to implement base on the necessary requirement and awareness of scientific knowledge in natural resources management, development, and balancing ecosystem and biodiversity.
In this regards, Cambodia people should consider the efficiency and sustainable management of natural resources by linking exploitation to conservation of fisheries and forestry, reforestation, aquaculture, and environmental protection that are very important aspects and valuable in subsist human life, animals, tree and other biodiversity. Those natural resources are essential for their daily livelihood particularly poor people that the royal government has paid attention.
Taking this great occasion, I would like to announce to all local people to keep and protect fishery resources in sustainable way at your places in the sake of yourself and your community avoiding using small-hole net, mosquito-net, electrocute tool, poisonous, fishing baby fish, etc since those tools completely destroy and reduce to scarcity of our resources which results of lacking food. On the other hand, inundated forest in some areas is the important habitat for fish to breed and feed that worth for us to protect in a sustainable way. Moreover, to heritage fishery resources for our next generation, we have to provide extension services by considering it as a valuable task that require constantly works and in all forms such as promote awareness through radio, TV, songs, movies, and spots, which I already pointed out, to be more active. In addition, all laws and regulations have to effectively and quickly enforce in order to assure and legalize rights of fishery communities in a direction that sustainable natural resources management and exploitation can be assured.
Within this spirit, I would propose MAFF as well as department of fishery to promote and push fish raising in all images including raising in pond, cage in river (BER), SORNG, and rice field or canal and irrigation network in order to reduce pressure of overexploitation on natural resources and contribute to poverty reduction in rural area.
Moreover, I take this opportunity to endorse the next year development plan of MAFF that will organize the Fishery Day everywhere at commune level to enhance the awareness and promote the broader participation by local people.
On behalf of the Royal Government and myself, I would like to grab this opportunity to extend my gratitude to donor community for support provided to agriculture, forestry and fisheries that results in good progress and development worth to be proud. Moreover, I would like to appeal to all the international partners to continue their support in order to reduce poverty, the lasting concern of farmers whose lives wholly rely on agriculture.
Finally, may I wish Your Venerable Monks, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen the five gems of Buddhist blessing. May the spirit of fishery conservation always in the heart of our citizens..