3. Fish and the Poor: The Case of Cambodia
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Case of Cambodia 39 3 Fish and the Poor: the Case of Cambodia Nao Thuok a and Lieng Sopha b ABSTRACT Cambodia is a high poverty country where a large bulk of the poor, including women and children, depends on the inland fishery. The resource is widespread and accessible to the poor; culturally fish is a typical part of the diet, either fresh or in processed form. Most capture fishery relies on simple traps or other gears, in both inland waters and rice fields. Pond or cage aquaculture is becoming popular. Fishing is seasonal, reaching its peak during the receding flood period. Many fish-dependent households have members engaged in part-time fishing. Fishing households earn only half the income of non-fishing households. However in the fish-rich Tonle Sap region, catches per capita have been dropping in recent years, partly as a result of habitat degradation from rapid economic development. Indicated policies include: ecosystem protection, protection of wild fish broodstock, capacity-building, promotion of ecologically-friendly aquaculture, stronger law enforcement, and information databases. a Deputy Director, Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute (IFReDI) and National Component Director for Fisheries Ecology, Valuation and Mitigation (FEVM), Fisheries Programme, Mekong River Commission (FP MRC), Fisheries Administration (FiA), Cambodia b General Director and Advisor to the Prime Minister, Fisheries Administration (FiA), Cambodia. (Corresponding Author. Email: ) Fisheries&Poverty book.indb 39 10/28/08 3:32:19 PM NAO THUOK AND LIENG SOPHA 40 OVERVIEW Poverty incidence in Cambodia remains high, reaching 28 per cent (World Bank, 2006).1 Majority of the rural poor, including men, women, and children engage in fishing activities for their livelihood. Cambodia is rich in aquatic biodiversity. There are about 500 freshwater fish species and 435 marine fish species. Its aquatic resources are productive, particularly those associated with floodplain. Inland fisheries are more important than marine fisheries, and are among the largest and most important in the world (Hortle et al. 2004). Figure 3.1 Map of Cambodia Highlighting Tonle Sap Lake Although the individual income of the fishing household is small, the total contribution of fisheries is large. Annual inland fisheries are valued at $150-300 million. In the 1994-2004 annual average gross domestic product (GDP), fisheries contributed 11.5 per cent, the second largest proportion to the GDP of agriculture sector of 38.8 per cent, after crops at 16.8 per cent, Fisheries&Poverty book.indb 40 10/28/08 3:32:23 PM Case of Cambodia 41 livestock at 6.5 per cent, and forestry at 4 per cent (World Bank 2007 after National Institute of Statistics). The inland capture fisheries component accounts for three-fourths the total value of fisheries production, of which the marine sector shares 13 per cent and aquaculture, about 9 per cent. Most fish are locally consumed with exports of about 50,000 tons per year. These exports mostly go to neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam. As the importance of the fisheries for food security and family income has risen, effort has been directed towards improving fisheries management. Changes to the fisheries policy since late 2000 have led to the allocation of 56 per cent of the fishing lot area to family fisheries to meet the poverty reduction policy of the government. However, catch per fisher has declined due to a number of reasons, including: habitat degradation, environmental changes, increased fishing effort, and the impact of water-related structures on fisheries. Given the vital contribution of fisheries to food security and the livelihoods of the poor, this review seeks to identify important issues that need to be addressed to reduce poverty among fishing-dependent communities in Cambodia. Food Security The historical importance of fisheries has been recognised since the ancient times. Fisheries are a safety net. Fish is a resource that can be found almost everywhere and one that the poor can afford. As such, it is not easily replaceable by other kinds of meat. Fish is consumed by Cambodians in many different forms but the most common preparations are salted dry, grilled, or in sour soup. Every day, Cambodians eat fresh or processed fish; fish sauce is a staple in every meal. The most popular dish is fish paste or prahok, as Cambodians call it. Prahok is made mostly from small fish or trey riel, sourced especially from the high catch of the dai (bag net) fisheries in the Tonle Sap River just five to seven days before the full moon in December or January. Protein in...