Cambodia, House of Hundred Fish Species

Tonle Sap Lake and Mekong River make Cambodia the world’s largest freshwater fishes’ habitats, Director of Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute Srun Lim Song said.Most of the Cambodian fish, migrate annually between the spawning areas in southern Lao PDR and northeastern Cambodia and the floodplains around the Tonle Sap, south of Phnom Penh and the Vietnamese portion of the Mekong Delta and back. According to some researches, in the Mekong River Bank there are 1300 species, fortunately Cambodia alone has 478 to 700 species and most of them live in 8 major habitats surround Tonle Sap Lake and 97 deep pools along the Mekong River, especially from Stung Streng to Kratie, he said.

Fist is main economic resources activities in Cambodia. Cambodians depend on fish for 70 percent of their protein, and the most recent estimates of the National Institute of Statistics in Cambodia indicate fisheries contribute 16 percent to the national GDP.

Srun Lim Song said, Cambodia is the world largest freshwater production over the world.

“Based on the freshwater capture fisheries production every year from 300 000 tones to 450 000 tones, I strongly believe that this production is larger than Amazon’s fishery production where it is the world largest fish species with approximately 2000 kind”, he said. 

Nicolaas VAN ZALINGE,  Mekong River Commission Fisheries Expert said in his research on data requirements for fisheries management in the Tonle Sap that freshwater fisheries production in Cambodia may be among the world’s ten largest producers.

Srun Lim Song said fish is very important for Cambodian households. A survey conduct by Mekong River Commission and Department of Fisheries recently years said that every Cambodian people eat fish approximately 67kg per year.

He said “freshwater fish and Cambodian stay together thousands years ago. They are a part of Cambodian culture. This we can see on every ancient temple’s wall around Cambodia and Cambodian everyday life now, especially the region surrounds Tonle Sap Lake”.

The Tonle Sap, is most wellknown Great Lake is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and is an ecological hotspot that was designated as a UNESCO biosphere in 1997. It is fairly small, around one meter deep and with an area of 2,700 square km in the dry season, but it increase its area to 16,000 square km and its depth to up to nine meters, flooding nearby fields and forests in the raining season is a perfect breeding ground for fish and makes the Tonle Sap ecosystem one of the most productive inland fisheries in the world. Srun Lim Song said, most of the fishery production in Cambodia is from Tonle Sap. It provides over 75% of Cambodia’s annual inland fish catch and 70 percent of the Cambodians’ proteing intake.According to him, the freshwater fishery production in Cambodia is not much decreased, while there are many scientific research address about this. The scientific researches of the Mekong River Commission state that, in terms of freshwater fishery production, it is absolutely critical. Fish is under threat. Fishermen complain of declining yields. Today, many Cambodian large species have dramatically declined in number, some nearly to extinction, such as the famous Mekong Giant Catfish, Pangasianodon gigas and the Giant Barb Catlocarpio siamensis. Very few individuals survive the heavy fishing pressure long enough to reach sexual maturity. He said among the 478 to 700 species now we can see some species is really dangerous. They are 21 species. Srun Lim Song, says there are many negative impact on the Cambodia’s fishery product, but it is not the Cambodia’s phenomenon. It is not happening only in Cambodia, but it has been happened in the whole region and over the world. “Because of the improvement of fishing techniques, deforestation, overpopulation and  hydro-damming of the Mekong upstream may prove to be damaging in the long run, too, but the Cambodian fishery is still relatively healthy”, he said.Cambodia is a poor Southeast Asian nation, but Cambodia is also home to an incredible variety of flora and fauna and one of the world’s richest fisheries.

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