Cambodia arrests 16 Vietnamese fishermen on illegal trawling charges

By VnExpress   March 21, 2017 | 12:32 am PT
Cambodia arrests 16 Vietnamese fishermen on illegal trawling charges
Fishermen pull nets on a boat near Ly Son Island off Vietnam's Quang Ngai province. Photo by AFP
Trawling in shallow waters is a crime that can carry prison time under Cambodia's fisheries law.

Cambodian authorities announced on Tuesday that marine police have arrested 16 Vietnamese nationals for trawling in shallow Cambodian waters.

The announcement said fisheries officials and local police in Tuek Chhou District, Kampot Province have seized three boats and detained 16 Vietnamese people accused of using illegal fishing methods, the The Cambodia Daily reported.

According to Cambodian law, trawling in shallow waters (less than 20 meters deep) or using electrified nets, as many trawlers do, are crimes that carry prison time. Critics say the practice is environmentally catastrophic, destroying breeding grounds and endangering turtles and fish.

“We have confiscated three trawlers and arrested 16 Vietnamese people,” said Sao Sorin, fisheries director of Kampot Province, which is located about 140km (86 miles) southwest of the capital Phnom Penh.

While most of the waters in Kampot's Kep Bay, with its eastern limit about 20km from the Vietnamese border, are far shallower than the 20-meter minimum specified by the law on trawling, Vietnamese trawlers say Cambodian officials don’t pay much attention to the depth.

Kampot's officials have previously claimed there is no law against Vietnamese trawlers encroaching on Cambodian waters, according to the The Cambodia Daily. However, Sorin said this time the trawling was an offense, and the arrested Vietnamese fishermen could be fined.

He could not specify the depth of the waters in which the trawlers were seized.

“We have to look into whether the Vietnamese fishermen committed a crime under Cambodian law before we take action,” he said.

Sorin said his office relied on reports of illegal trawling from local fishermen to make arrests. “Even though we don’t do much patrolling, we are always prepared to crack down when we receive reports,” he said.

Sim Vuthea, deputy provincial governor, agreed on Monday that fines were a suitable punishment for the fishermen. He added that Vietnamese nationals had previously been imprisoned on trawling offenses.

“The fisheries law, as I understand it, states that the trawlers will face fines, and if they want their boats back, Vietnamese authorities will have to guarantee it won’t happen a second time,” he said.

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