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First national round table

24 October 2001

Fisheries and Protected Areas in Cambodia

Kim Sour, Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries


With an increase in global population, there has been a corresponding increase in fishing, often causing overexploitation in many places with a resulting collapse in fisheries.

The total catch in Cambodia in 1999 was 284,100 tons, of which 81.31% was captured inland, 13.41% was marine capture and just over 5% from aquaculture.

Slices of the fish pie. Sizes of the different fisheries sub-sectors in Cambodia in 1999 (Source: DoF 2000)

Protected areas have become one of the major tools for management and conservation of aquatic organisms and their habitats. There area two main reasons for protected area establishment:

  1. Conservation, and
  2. “harvest refugia” for exploited organism.

Objective: To discuss the relationship between protected areas and fisheries, focusing on both Cambodia's inland and marine ecosystems including impacts on protected areas and the assessment of community ideas on protected areas.


Protected Areas in Cambodia

Fish Sanctuaries: 13 (DoF/MAFF): For fish, breeding, spawning, and feeding

Protected Areas: 23 (MoE): divided into 4 main categories:

  1. National Park: Natural and scenic areas of significance for scientific, educational and recreational values;
  2. Wildlife Sanctuaries: Significant species of flora and fauna
  3. Protected Landscapes: for recreation and tourism
  4. Multiple-use management areas: for sustainable use of natural resources.


Relationship between fisheries and protected areas

In protected areas the following can be observed

  • Lower fishing mortality:
    • The fish are protected from all fish exploitation, and destruction of their habitats.

  • High density and high biodiversity of aquatic species:
    • The density in protected areas is high due to no fishing;
    • The species diversity is also high compared wih unprotected areas, e.g.coral reef areas are rich of biodiversity

  • Larger fish with higher longevity, since there is no fishing.

  • Higher biomass of fish:
    • Compared with exploited areas, fish sanctuaries have a higher total biomass, but some fishing areas are lost due to these fish sanctuaries or protected areas.

  • Higher reproductivity per unit areas:
    • Larger fish lay more eggs than smaller fish.

  • Adult fish emigrate:
    • Fish leave protected areas and in so doing support fishing activities in unprotected areas (Russ’s research in the Philippines).

  • Egg and larval export:
    • Both marine and freshwater larvae disperse from fish sanctuaries or protected areas by currents, waves and swimming. For example Pangasius spp. adults migrate upstream while larvae migrate or drift downstream due to the current.


Impacts on protected areas

  • Storms and drought:
    • Coral reefs in many places are destroyed by storms.
    • Some fish sanctuaries dry out in the dry season.

  • Soil erosion and sedimentation:
    • Caused by land clearing, dredging, deforestation, sewage, agriculture, dam construction and inshore developments, e.g. gem mining in Pailin.

  • Illegal fishing:
    • Use of dynamite, electro-fishing, cyanide and other illegal equipment.

  • Pollution:
    • From sewage, inshore development, soil erosion and sedimentation, causes eutrophication and disease, e.g. DDT and Urea.

  • Habitat destruction:
    • Caused by flooding, mangrove cutting, clearing for settlements, inshore development, shrimp farming, logging, firewood collection, salt farms, and agriculture farming. Coral mining for tourism industries.

  • Introduction of exotic species: Accidently or intentionally:
    • Most cultured fish: tilapia, African catfish, Chinese carps.
      Weeds: water hyacinth and Mimosa spp.


Local communities, fisheries and protected areas
  • Local people live on fishing, agriculture and forests.

  • Community-based resource management plays a vital role, which requires strong support from these people for the establishment and protection of protected areas.

  • In Stung Treng province, people have set up a “Fisheries Commission” along with its "fisheries regulation” .

  • In Ream National Park local people have participated in resource management.

  • DoF/MAFF has set up a new office of “Community Fisheries” to co-ordinate local people to manage resources after handing over fishing lots.

  • A survey conducted in many provinces showed support for the ideas of the establishment of protected areas by local people.

Conclusions and recommendations

Protected areas are for management, tourism and multiple uses. For fisheries, protected areas are an insurance policy against fisheries collapsing, which is an insurance against management failure.

Protected areas create 7 expectations:

  1. No fishing,
  2. high fish density and biodiversity,
  3. larger fish with longer age,
  4. high biomass,
  5. high reproductive output,
  6. adult fish migrations, and
  7. eggs and larval disperse.

Impacts: storm and drought, soil erosion and sedimentation, illegal fishing, pollution, habitat destruction, and the introduction of exotic species.

The establishment of a protected area requires strong support from local people, and they are willing to participate and support this idea.


When establishing a protected area one should consider size, location, permanency, present and past ecological issues, assessment, management strategies, national capacity building and national system planning.