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Change story - Blocks, poles and patrols: decreasing illegal fishing in Cambodian Community Fisheries

20 July 2012 - The deployment of anti-trawling structures such as cement poles and cubes as well as regular patrolling activities appears to be helping decrease illegal fishing in Cambodian Community Fisheries (CFis) while improving catches made with hand-held fishing gear.
RFLP has supported these activities as part of its actions to facilitate better fisheries and resource management within a number of CFis in coastal provinces of Cambodia.
Support was provided to 15 CFis to develop Community Fisheries Area Management Plans, which were formally agreed in May 2011. The plans detail activities and goals that the communities will work towards to improve resource management and community development. Developed through a participatory process they marked an important step in the empowerment of communities to manage their resources. 
The deployment of the anti-trawling devices and enhanced monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) capacity for the communities formed part of the plans. Anti-trawling devices were deployed in six CFis between August to December 2011 while 13 CFis received patrol boats from RFLP in March 2012 as well as other MCS equipment such as binoculars, cameras and radios.  
Mr Kun Chap, age 26, captain of patrolling team in CFi Chumpou Khmao goes out with his team once a week to patrol the community conservation area and blood cockle refugia.
“The main types of illegal gear being used are blood cockle push nets. Small size meshes are also used to catch juvenile crabs,” he says.
Mr Chap recognizes the need protect community fisheries resources from illegal fishing mainly carried out by fishers from other local communities. Monthly meetings supported by RFLP have facilitated regular and direct interaction between the communities and the Fisheries Administration.  One of the benefits of this improved working relationship has been better collaboration when it comes to confronting illegal fishers.
“At first we advise the violator not to carry out illegal fishing here. If they do not listen we call the Fisheries Administration and Marine Police to come. They can then confiscate the illegal gear,” Mr Chap says.

“The patrol work is very important for the CFi as we have to stop illegal fishing for the community. Better collaboration with the Fisheries Administration is key to combating illegal activities effectively. Resources seem to be improving and we feel our work will make a difference.”
Despite the success of the patrols, CFi sometimes face difficulties to afford the fuel costs. . “The Chief (of the CFi) has to use own money to pay (for fuel),” says Mr Chap. “Fines from illegal fishers go to the Fisheries Administration with some part for the CFi. But if we don’t catch anyone then we don’t get any income.”
RFLP is also working with the community to strengthen and/or diversify its livelihoods options. A rice bank is being established in Mr. Chap’s community and once it is operating the increased income it generates should contribute towards patrol costs.
Anti-trawling devices deployed by RFLP have also had some success in combating illegal fishing, the concrete blocks snagging and breaking a number of illegal motorized push nets.
“The illegal fishers are not happy with us as it is now harder for them to operate. They are marking the position of the blocks with sticks but we take them down every time we see them,” Mr Chap added.
 The impact of the anti-trawling devices has also been felt in other Community Fisheries.
Paul Ferber, Director of Marine Conservation Cambodia (MCC) based in Koh Rong Sanloem, said, “After trawlers come through there is nothing left but sand. The Community Fishery installed 42 blocks about 100 meters apart in the community fishing area and after six months they have made a big difference. There are already signs of significant regeneration of habitat. The situation is not perfect but it is so much better than it was.”
Meanwhile, Ny Va, Patrol team leader of CFi Thmor Sor reported that there had been an increase in catch following the installation of 200 cement poles. Previously fishers had only been able to catch about 2-3 kilos of blood cockles whereas now they were catching 6-8 kilos. He is seeking additional support from RFLP to install more poles so that illegal trawlers cannot operate in other open areas.
Before installing the anti-trawling obstacles, RFLP helped local authorities carry out a series of consultations with the communities on conservation area development to ensure fishers understood the reason for, and supported the installation of the obstacles. Survey work was supported by RFLP to assess whether such obstacles were suitable for the areas and if so, the best place to position them. Local fishers also took part in the construction process while the site of all obstacles was also recorded with GPS equipment.
Source: http://www.rflp.org/