Agriculture Minister Veng Sokhon said every fishing boat in the country will be tracked with E.U.-funded GPS beacons by 2023 in order to crack down on illegal fishing.
As part of the newly signed, 112-million-euro “CAPFISH-Capture” aid program, the country’s more than 100,000 fishing boats would be linked up to satellites, Sokhon said in response to reporters’ questions on Wednesday.
“All fishing boats must be equipped with GPS and connected to satellites. In the future, we can check which fishing boat is committing a crime, whether in freshwater or marine areas,” he said when asked what the government would be doing to tackle illegal fishing.
At the end of July, 109,298 freshwater fishing boats were registered with the Fisheries Administration and 7,715 more in the sea, administration director Eng Cheasan said.
Most were small boats, including motorboats with engines smaller than 100 cc, Cheasan said, adding that almost all fishing in Cambodia was done by individuals and families rather than businesses.
He said he did not know when the GPS program would start.
Long Sochet, head of the Coalition of Cambodian Fishers (CCF), who works on fisheries conservation on the Tonle Sap lake in Pursat province, said he welcomed the ministry’s efforts to prevent fisheries crimes but asked that it be generally more effective in implementing its plans.
Sos, a fisherman in Koh Kong province who asked that his full name be withheld due to concerns of potential repercussions from authorities, said he wanted illegal fishing stamped out, but doubted that putting GPS on boats would be of much benefit.
It would be enough to simply patrol areas restricted to fishing, he said.
“They should be strict against anyone fishing in seagrass areas and prohibited areas, and just with that people would be OK,” Sos said. “But the problem is they fail to do it.”
Fish stocks were becoming scarce due to rampant illegal fishing, he added.
The Fisheries Administration had taken action against 1,622 cases of illegal fishing this year through July 20, with 92 of the cases sent to court, according to Cheasan, the administration director.
Forty-two of the cases led to a court fine, while eight suspects were jailed, he said.
Last year, the administration took action against 3,166 cases, sending 74 of them to court, leading to the imprisonment of 42 fishermen, according to its annual report.
Sokhon, the minister, said the ministry would also be focusing on preventing illegal fishing in Cambodian waters by Thai and Vietnamese fishing boats.
(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)