Today it is my distinct honor and pleasure to join all of you in this joyful “Fishery Day”. Today’s large gathering to witness this ceremony testifies that this is a historical event in the development of Cambodia’s fishery sector. This is historic in our country of rich and diverse natural resources.
On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I express deep appreciation to the management and staff of the MAFF for organizing this very important event, the “Fishery Day”. This is an important movement 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 resources.
As I have usually pointed out that Beung Tonle Sap Lake is a very rich and important stock of fish that can feed millions of people and support many whose livelihoods depend on fishing. We are also proud that fish is abundant in Cambodia; in the rivers, lakes, ponds, irrigation systems and even in the rice fields. As the Khmer saying notes: “Where there is water, there the fish are.“
Moreover, we all are aware that Cambodia is a fish-eating society and fish is an easily accessible food, obtainable everywhere. For this reason, fish is an important resource to the daily subsistence of each and every Cambodian so that we have to preserve fisheries to be ever-lasting for the next generations.
You are all aware of the recent two decades history of our Khmer nation, surviving from the genocide thanks to liberation 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.
Indeed, all these great achievements are worthy of intense pride by the entire Cambodian nation in the 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, the achievements that we have attained in economic, social, cultural and daily life activities are not totally satisfactory to the people’s needs. Even though we have obtained economic growth, increase in investment and employment; infrastructure has been reconstructed and continuously restored, which in turn facilitates economic and daily life activities of the people, difficulties remain to be solved.
In this sense, fisheries are vitally important, supporting millions of people in terms of food security, accounting for 3/4 of animal protein consumption and provide invaluable revenue and employment to around 2 million people, especially among rural households that still comprise almost 90% of the country’s poor. Yet, pervasive poverty among the rural people has forced them to exploit the natural resources to fulfill their basic needs in unsustainable ways that have caused the degradation of natural resources and the environment.
Moreover, 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.
To solve those problems, we have exerted our best efforts to provide the right and power to rural communities so that our farmers can effectively participate in planning and programming their own activities for sustainable management of their own natural resources. Specifically, we have embarked on reform of fisheries by reducing more than 56% of the coverage of concessions, creating a total of 339 fishery communities in order to ensure continuity in management and use of fisheries and enhancing access by the poor to the use of this very important resource.
This is another important effort by the Royal Government in reducing poverty and promoting equitable distribution of the economic gains. Thus, we are currently implementing and expanding communal management of fishery sector via the establishment of fishery communities across the Kingdom of Cambodia. By establishing fishery communities, the management of the fishery resources has been improved, presenting a good starting point for the participatory management of the resource by local communities.
Today, the strategic policies of the Royal Government are focused on the development of agriculture, moving from traditional practices to modern production, to ensure the food security for people, increased exports of farm products, promotion of agro-industries development and rural employment that will reduce poverty among our farmers. A top priority is to promote the implementation of water policy to quickly strengthen irrigation capacity, expand harvest coverage, ensure safety of ownership and use of the agricultural lands, increase research and extension activities and expand the access to both domestic and international market.
Moreover, we must focus on enhancing education about the environment, sustainable management and use of natural resources, strengthening the management of protected areas, improving the management of ecological system of Beung Tonle Sap and the wetlands and seashore areas. Indeed, these activities can be realized based on the needs and understanding of the development of natural resources and the maintenance of ecological balance and biodiversity.
At the same time, I urge our compatriots to consider that the effective and sustainable management of natural resources, by linking exploitation to conservation of fishery and forestry, re-forestation, water management and environmental protection is the most important support for life itself. It is undeniable to say here that the preservation of natural resources is vital for daily consumption and livelihood, which is also an important front in our fight to reduce poverty among our people.
In this context, I call on all citizens in all areas to help preserve and protect our fishery resources in order to sustain all local communities. We must all avoid the use of destructive fishing equipment and practices such as tight nets, mosquito nets, electric tools, poison and the taking of fish eggs. These instruments and practices destroy the root of fishery resources, and eventually make fish harvests scarce. Eventually, we will lack of fish for food. Indeed, we must exert efforts to prevent abuse of fishery in fish sanctuary and in the restricted season, the season of fishery reproduction. Moreover, flooded forest areas are the necessary housing for all kinds of fish to reproduce. Therefore, we must help to preserve them. To enrich fish along rice fields and small ponds, all local areas have to develop fish shelter ponds or set aside places for conservation of reproductive fish. After giving birth, the fish will proliferate everywhere in rice fields as the fishery department has implemented in Svay Rieng, Takeo, Kompong Speu and Udor Mean Chey provinces.
Thus, the Department of Fisheries has to further encourage the development of fishing communities and conservation areas. Moreover, to ensure the sustainability of fishery resources for next generation, we must consider dissemination process as an important task by using all means of media such as radio, television, entertainment and series program. I have already recommended these kinds of dissemination and we are actually implementing them. Furthermore, all laws must be disseminated and effectively implemented as quickly as possible to ensure and protect legal rights and responsibilities of fishing communities, all aimed at ensuring the sustainable management and use of the environment and natural resources.
At this stage, the Department of fisheries should promote alternative fish production techniques, including family fish raising in ponds and in rice fields and irrigation system in order to help reduce the over exploitation of the natural fishing areas and contribute to the enhancement of livelihoods of the poor in rural areas. Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank our friendly countries and all other international institutions which have actively participated and supported Cambodia’s agricultural development projects, especially in fisheries for the cause of development and poverty reduction of Cambodian people.
Finally, I wish all of you, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear students the five Gems of Buddhist blessings.