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First Regional Workshop

7 May 2002

Fisheries and protected areas in Cambodia

Prepared by Kim Sour and presented by Pich Serey Vath, Department of Fisheries


“Where, there is water, there is fish”

This is a well-known Cambodian expression, but we cannot be sure that there will be fish where there is water, if there is weak management of fisheries resources and ecosystems.



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.

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

The percentage of fisheries sub-sectors in Cambodia
(Source: DoF 2000)


  • Fisheries Law (n.33, 1987) ; The new fisheries law was drafted in 1999, now it is under a consultation process with stakeholders including local fishing communities.
  • Sub-decree on leasing fishing lot
  • Sub-decree on the establishment of fisheries communities
  • Community-based resources management ( decentralisation of natural resources management)
  • Turning over of 56.23% of fishing lots to local community for substantive fisheries and management in sustainable manner


New law implementation

  • Develop fisheries sector
  • Conserve fisheries resources for long-term
  • Manage fisheries resources
  • Allocate resources to users
  • Solve conflicts and problems
  • Prohibit fishing violations such as illegal fishing gear or fishing in closed season


Fishery communities and management

  • Local people live on fisheries, agriculture, and forests
  • DoF/MAFF has set up new office of “Community Fisheries” to coordinate local people to manage resources after handover fishing lots
  • In Stung Treng province, people set up a “Fisheries Commission” along with “ fisheries regulation”
  • In Ream National Park : local people participated in resource management.
  • Surveys on the establishment of protected areas by local people.


Protected area categories

4 main categories of protected areas:

  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

Fish sanctuaries are a part of the protected area system.


Fish sanctuaries

Fishing lots: 159 (DoF, 2002); Fish sanctuaries: 13 (DoF/MAFF): for fish, breeding, spawning, and feeding

Map of Cambodia showing proposed protected areas

Wildlife sanctuaries

National parks

Protected landscape

Multiple-use area


Water bodies

Fish sanctuaries


Fishing lots


Marine protected areas

  • Ream National Park
    • Includes a marine zone
    • Includes fishing community

  • Proposed marine protected areas
    • Koh Rong and Rong Samlim Marine Protected Area: 264 km2

Location of proposed marine protected areas


Protected Areas

How can fisheries be managed sustainably for the next generation? There area plenty of methods, but protected area development is the most efficient.

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

  1. conservation, and
  2. as a “harvest refugee” for exploited organisms


Fish sanctuary selection criteria

  • Area with round-year water
  • Area with high biodiversity and density
  • Area with low human population
  • Area isolated from disturbances and pollution

Fish sanctuaries in rice fields

  • Pools and streams
  • Reservoirs and dams
  • Natural ponds


  • Places with year-round water
  • Places with native fish species

Fish sanctuaries in marine areas


  • Places with high biodiversity
  • Places with good habitats
  • Places with low disturbance
  • Places with no pollution


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,
    • Mismanagement can lead to the loss of some fish species

  • 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.

  • Egg and larval export:
    • Both marine and freshwater larvae disperse from fish sanctuaries or protected areas by currents, waves and swimming.

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.

  • 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 use of urea.

  • Habitat destruction:
    • Caused by flooding, mangrove cutting, land clearance 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.


Conclusions and recommendations

Protected areas are for management, tourism and multiple uses. They are an insurance policy against fisheries collapsing.

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.



  • Improve community involvement
  • Establishment of a protected areas
  • Improved management strategies (law enforcement)
  • National capacity building