Release of Over One Million Aquatic Animals
My wife and I are so happy to be able to return to the province of Svay Rieng once again to celebrate the National Fishery Day. The event, which is being celebrated annually, was organized last year at Kompot province. Since I had a swine flu, I designated Deputy Prime Minister, HE Yim Chhayli to take my place. While being in the city of Svay Rieng again, let’s give our appreciations to its astonishing changes in both infrastructures and development projects in general.
I am so happy that we are conducting this event on an annual basis and this year we are releasing over one millions of aquatic animals, vertebrate or invertebrate – all sorts of fish, turtle, frog, eel, lobster, etc. into the system of the River of Vaiko. I am of the opinion that action must be taken to promote aquaculture and related activities in further breeding and hatching, especially endangered species of aquatic animals.
By celebrating this important event, I would urge concerned institutions and people to gain a better knowledge and sense on inter-relatedness among three factors – science, nature and demand for food/protein by the people. Let me have your attention that we now have more people to feed than before with a much scarcer resources.
Hailing Aquatic Breeding and Aquaculture Expertise
In so far as this work is concerned, it should be noted that there has been an increase in training programs in relation to aquatic animal breeding ranging from fish to lobster, and before too long, I heard, there will be what they call “crab bank.” According to data provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery (MAFF) and the Fisheries Administration (FA), we have now in the whole country 273 places where some major fish and lobster are bred. Among them, 260 places belong to the people.
According to the same sources, there are 650 places, most of them located in the province of Kompong Speu, 155, followed by Siem Reap province, 90, where people keep them as aquatic ponds or shelters protected and conserved by community. This has clearly underlined our efforts to balance between conserving our reservoirs for natural fish and raising fish to meet the need of everyday demand.
Having come to this I would like to thank MAFF, especially FA, for the efforts they have made in promoting this task of aquatic animal husbandry, and most importantly, the people of Cambodia who take active part in the movement. I noted with satisfaction that in the provinces of Svay Rieng and Takeo, where aquatic animal resources are scarce, aquatic animal husbandry movement seems to have taken a firm and fast pace.
Household Aquatic Animal Husbandry Projects
It is a good thing to do in pooling our farmers together to set up extension networks of aquatic animal husbandry, where private sector is also encouraged to make investment. Take the case of Svay Rieng province into consideration, in the decade of 1980s, fish culture was noted to be a great success. In several of my visits to the province, where I was joined by then Governor Heng Samkai, I noted family size aquatic animal husbandry projects, in which people raise their own fish in their household compound.
What I learned from the project was that people benefit not only from the products they raised but also water for their cultivation too. I also noticed similar trend in villages along the national road 1. As of now, this model movement has been replicated to other provinces, where Pursath is a remarkable one. HE Suy Sem, Minister of Industry, Energy and Mines, who leads the Cambodian People’s Party working group in the province told the other day that the CPP Pursath working groups have been making some two thousand family size fish ponds for our people.
Based on this experience I would urge our people to set aside, if they have larger land, a part of their land for ponds for aquatic animal husbandry. They would not only get aquacultural products but also water that is a scarce resource in many areas of our country. Let me remind you that we can no longer depend on aquatic resources from natural lakes and/or water systems anymore. We have to find a way to remedy this shortcoming and releasing baby fish and other aquatic animals into them is one of the best ways to do.
I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciations to all development partners, especially JICA of Japan, for the efforts and resources they kindly made available for Cambodians to work on preserving aquatic animal resources and developing modules of aquaculture.
Shallower Water, Less Fish, Larger Population to Feed
In about 30 or 40 years ago, the situation of Cambodia was different from today. It then had a smaller population, whereas its water systems were deeper and therefore more aquatic animals were available. As is mentioned by HE Nao Thuok, General Director of the FA, there was only some 30,000 fishermen in those days (1945). While now our population has grown to some fourteen million, the number of fishermen has also grown to over one million. However, let me state that then we had deeper water systems, therefore we had more fish to feed a small population.
However, with the population growth and general development trend, we are experiencing a reversal of development pattern – a shallower water system, which impacts on the fish population and therefore is unable to feed a bigger population. Siltation has caused so many lakes to face short physical depth problem. Take my home village as an example. There used to be many huge lakes when I was young but due to both objective and subjective factors, they have suffered lack of physical depth.
As far as objective cause is concerned, issue of increased concentration of suspended sediments and sediment spill. Usually, you may be aware, in the natural water system, there grows various aquatic plants. They cause sediment spill over time, when they are in the river system of regular flood season areas. The sediment causes siltation and leveling up the river or lake bed leading to lack of physical depth. The case has been noted with parts of the Mekong River that cause us serious concerns on reversal or diversion of water current.
Having said that let’s be reminded of subjective or man-made factors which cause similar impacts on the water system. Fishing tackles such as bamboo traps spanning long distance across the water flow in several places of Tonel Sap Lake for instance, have surely trapped the sediment, and caused siltation. Prohibition must be strictly placed and monitoring must be implemented so that such traps will not be mounted in the river, stream and/or other water systems. I also urge that action must be taken swiftly and regularly to remove and to prevent building fish shelters from bushes and tree branches. These are recipes for sediments.
Order 01 – No Withdrawal
I would like to take this opportune moment to address issue of Order 01 dated May 22, 2011, and its implementation as has just been mentioned by HE Chan Sarun, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery. The course of action that we undertake would of course not satisfy everyone but we will have to do it to prevent further destruction and disaster. We have taken one step already concerning issue of demolishing man-made reservoirs and deforestation of inundated forest in the floodplain areas of Tonle Sap.
Now look, if we were to put the two actions on one scale, we would see that on the one hand we release over one million aquatic animals, breed endangered aquatic species from fish to lobster, to crab, and on the other we are taking measures to help protect aquatic animals in the natural system. You may agree with me that it does make any sense if we release over one million aquatic animals into the system but we let the mother fish in the natural system be caught or dead because of illegal and unscientific fishing. So I urge all concerned on the attention that we must undertake two tasks at the same time – aquaculture and aquatic animal husbandry and preservation of such animals in the natural system.
As far as inundated forest is concerned, we must uphold similar approach. It is important to grow them on the one hand but it is even more important to preserve them. On July 9, HM the King went to plant tree in Kompot province and today the Prime Minister is here to release fish. But what good does it do if we plant one million trees here but two million trees were cut there, and we release one million fishes here but mother fishes are allowed to be caught or left to die of sediment-caused siltation in the natural system? Replanting trees and/or repopulating aquatic animals must therefore be conducted along with preserving them.
Order 01 – No Expiry Date
I wish to clarify that my Order Number 01 is of no expiry date, unless I am no longer the Prime Minister. Let me explain why the Order is defined with no expiry date. Take building fish traps from tree branches and/or bushes for instance. You see that in order to have branches of trees and/or bushes to build those shelters to trap aquatic animals, these fishermen would have ordered for trees to be chopped off and inundated forest to be trimmed. So you understand that these cut off forest or trees while we are planting them. Mind you, their traps are huge that even vessels have to travel in detour.
What is worse still is the fact that their traps made of tree branches and/or chopped inundated forest would bring recipe for sediment spill to the lake basin itself. This has been speeding the process of increasing short physical depth to the system. This is an example from one angle of the issue and I would argue that this is one of the reasons why I make the Order 01 a regulation with no expiry date. Well, when someone is getting elected to replace, s/he may see it differently and change it. However, as CPP already declares that I will continue to be its candidate for the post of Prime Minister for the fifth term, I would not withdraw from this.
I will run till people no longer vote for me. I would take this opportunity to thank the people of Svay Rieng for their support which has clearly shown through their vote for the CPP to win all five constituent seats. I will not back away from your support and will see through the implementation of our policy vis a vis the Tonle Sap Lake, which is crucial to the life of Cambodians. Without the lake, I would say, nothing of the same would remain.
The Fishing Lots Inspection Work
Having implemented the above steps – demolished man-made reservoirs, prevented and reprimanded illegal deforestation of inundated forests in the floodplain, removed fish traps, we now have come to the phase of implementing inspection duty of all fishing lots in the Mekong basin. I would designate this task to HE Bin Chhin, Deputy Prime Minister, to head the inspection mechanism with the participation of the Ministries of Relations with the Senate, the National Assembly and Inspection, Justice, Environment, Water Resources and Meteorology, Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery, Land Management and Construction, Interior and the Tonle Sap Authority.
As far as inspection duty is concern, income from the fishing lots is not the focus. Inspection must be mainly on fishing permission logbook. I have information, which I still need to find out, that in fishing area 2 of Battambang province, the person who got permission from the state to administer fishing in the area did not do the job himself but, with the permission given, he sold it to small-scale fishermen. This is contradictory to the rule and regulation defined in fishing permission logbook. The inspection therefore must focus on what really happened in the reality that is not going along with the stated regulations.
Regarding these offenses, fishing rights will be suspended and areas will be prohibited for an unspecified period, perhaps until we are sure that the fish population comes back. The management in that period will be under state’s authority and no fishing is allowed still. I warn you that this is not a laughing matter. We will have to make it a public policy and action plan needs to be drawn up.
Need for Fishery and Forestry Restructure
In order to facilitate the (investigation) work I order HE Chan Sarun to remove the chiefs of the fishery administration containments in five provinces – Kompong Chhonang, Pursath, Battambang, Kompong Thom and Siem Reap. I would also urge Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, HE Sar Kheng, to discuss with HE Chan Sarun concerning the structures of the fisheries administration and forestry administration, as it has been ineffective, because of their odd structures that are not aligned with the rest of the country, so far.
I am sure that the structure has been difficult not only for the provincial authority to deal with the matter but also for the Fisheries Administration itself. It could have been the case that Nao Tuok, Chief of FA, would sometimes have difficulty in giving instruction to chief of fisheries administration cantonment/division as s/he would receive order only from the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery. We now give more power to the provincial authority. I was on VDO link to all provinces the other day and I allow the provincial authority to arrest those who commit these offenses – be it fishery or forestry.
I Am no Historical Criminal, More for Development Efforts
I would urge our people not to fish during the recuperation season as one fish with thousands of eggs we eat would give us after the recuperation seasons thousands of grown up fish. I would also urge you not to catch smaller fish to feed bigger ones. Our fish recuperation period would extend between July and October or November, after which period we allow our people to fish again. By then, baby fish will be grown up.
All in all, I do not wish to be criminal of the Cambodian history. It is more so that I have the support of the Cambodian people and trust of the Cambodian People’s Party to lead the Royal Government, I could not let them be disappointed on this issue. We need to increase the fish population in natural fish habitats and shelters. More fish releases into both the natural habitats and shelters, and the aquatic animal husbandry projects at the household levels, need to be done in a wider scale.
From the bird’s eye view, on my flight here, I noticed green landscape of grown up rice field in Svay Rieng as well as in parts of Prey Veng provinces. According to the report of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery, as of June 30, our people have already cultivated 34% of the total rice field already. This figure suggests that our people are doing a better job compared to last year. It has been predicted that this year we may have a bigger flood compared to previous years from the Mekong River. It has been foreseen to be somewhere over ten meters at Phnom Penh (from normal level) compared to over nine meters last year.
For our people in Svay Rieng, Prey Veng and Kompong Cham provinces, in my visit to the People’s Republic of China in December last year, I have secured a sum of 300 million USD. We have planned to spend some 100 million USD in designing and building the first-phase Vaiko River hydraulic project. We also have a second phase for the project, which would require 100 million USD more to complete. The project coverage extends from Kompong Cham through to Prey Veng and on to Svay Rieng provinces, which includes waterways, canals, sub-canals, ditches, water levees and water control structures, etc.
The project would then irrigate over ten thousand hectares of rice land from the first phase project and another 13,000 hectares of rice land from the second phase project in area where there are insufficient sources of water. The total land to be irrigated by the two projects would be over 24,000 hectares. While making such effort, we are confident that the country will experience further achievements in agriculture, on which the majority of our population depends, and we are sure that we can./.