WWF: Urgent action needed to protect endangered fish

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
An endangered Isok barb sold at Phae Leur market in Kratie town. WWF Cambodia

On the occasion of Cambodia’s National Fish Day on Wednesday, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF-Cambodia) and the Fisheries Administration urged law enforcement officials to take urgent action to protect endangered Mekong fish from extinction.

They warned that Giant Barb, Lsok Barb, Giant Goonch, Mekong Tiger Perch, Elephant-ear Gourami and Mekong Freshwater Stingray are being traded in Cambodia and trafficked to other countries.

The findings are the result of a January assessment that the six were among 35 types of fish being sold in markets in Kratie province.

Fishermen and residents were also interviewed.

The study found three main locations for endangered fish trafficking, including Koh Knhae, O’ Maras and Tbong Khla. The fish are trafficked to markets in Stung Treng, Ratanakkiri, Vietnam and Laos.

They are also trafficked to markets in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap by lorry from a fish collection site in Sambo district’s Sandan commune.

“It is illegal to trade endangered fish. It poses a serious threat to Cambodia’s fisheries resources, especially the mega fish species and the Mekong Irrawaddy Dolphins, which are considered the Kingdom’s living treasure,” the report said.

Fisheries Administration director-general Eng Cheasan said fishermen, buyers and middlemen do not understand much about the fisheries law and relevant legislation to protect resources, especially endangered fish species that need protection from extinction.

“I urge all relevant authorities to increase awareness about the fisheries law … and encourage fishing communities and the locals along the Mekong River to diversify income activities,” said Cheasan.

WWF-Cambodia country director Seng Teak wants to boost education about the law and create laws to fight illegal electro-fishing activities and stop fish harvesting and trade routes.

“I appeal to authorities at all levels to tighten their law enforcement efforts and enhance regular monitoring mechanisms at the fish markets and trading points while imposing severe penalties on those who illegally fish in prohibited river sections,” he said.

Giant Barb and Lsok Barb are classified as critically endangered globally and in Cambodia, while Giant Goonch, Mekong Tiger Perch, Elephant-ear Gourami are classified as endangered in the Kingdom.

There was a 38 per cent increase in illegal gillnetting from December last year to May, compared to the same period from 2018 to last year. The use of long-line hooks also increased by 46 per cent, the report said.