Thème 18 – Et si on pouvait sauver les poissons?

Throughout the world costal regions have played one of the most significant roles in the development of a country. In many cases the largest cities of a country were started where the sea ended and land began. The wealth of resources costal regions can offer in the development of a country almost can’t be measured. From being a source of renewable food, to opening the country up to the rest of the world via trade routes for supplies, waterways have been a critical environment to the success of endless countries. In many ways this applies to Cambodia as well.

The largest major cities in Cambodia are located far inland form the sea, but in no way does this discount how crucial Cambodian waters are to the country. With rich marine habitats, diverse marine species, and bountiful marine resources, Cambodia costal regions have played a key role in this countries development throughout its history up to where it is today. Since the beginning of Cambodia’s history their coastlines have be a food source for the entire country, a livelihood for local fishing communities, and played a critical role in Cambodia’s defenses during times of war.

With such an impotance being placed on one single resource, as that country grows, so does the destruction of that resource. Cambodia is not exempt from this destruction, and in many ways, it is in a more critical state then a majority of other countries.

Cambodia has had a very difficult and often sad history. For many years this country was in various states of war and even suffered through a horrendous period of civil genocide. Overcoming these times forced the governments of Cambodia to make choices many other countries have never had to face. With almost no industry in Cambodia and the pressing need to save the Cambodian people, the country looked to its natural resources as a way to help the country.

Every other country in the world uses their natural resources to drive its economy and Cambodia is no different. Unlike other countries Cambodia was coming out of horrific times and when it looked to the rest of the world for help, many countries turned their back on Cambodia. Being forced to take on this daunting task alone very few resources we taken with sustainability being considered or with any form of protection placed on them. Even today Cambodian ministries simply do not have the funding to prevent destruction of its natural resources and their waters are in serious jeopardy.

As Cambodia becomes a modern country these resources, especially their oceans, are being put on under heavy strain. Increased tourism, increased export of multiple sea products, and the uncontrolled development of costal regions are over-taxing this resource.

To meet the demands fishermen are being forced to take drastic measures. Illegal and destructive fishing practices have almost become the normal way of life in costal fishing communities just to keep these communities competitive.

As many countries surrounding Cambodia have already fished out their waters we are seeing a large influx of foreign illegal fishing Illegal By-Catchvessels entering Cambodian waters practicing the same destructive fishing practices as Cambodian fishing vessels. With the damage caused by foreign vessels added to what is being done by local fishing communities it is not unrealistic to imagine Cambodian waters being pushed to the point of permanent collapse.

Without immediate and serious intervention the collapse of this resource is inventible. The Cambodian Government simply does not have the resources to fund, monitor, or enforce what is going on in their waters, which is one of the major reasons Marine Conservation Cambodia is here.

A wonderful speech was given in Scotland by Amanda Vincent, one of the worlds foremost seahorse experts. Amanda Vincent highlighted this same need for immediate action in protecting our marine environments. She emphasised how the scientific community shouldn’t use a ‘lack of data’ as an excuse for being over cautious and taking no action. She used a clever medical analogy to drive home her point…when treating patients doctors use all available evidence to treat the condition most effectively, but in cases or conditions where knowledge is lacking they don’t just stand by and do nothing. They use what knowledge they have, however little that might be, to make the best possible decision, because some action (even if there is the threat of it not being totally correct) is often better than taking no action at all.  Sometimes conservation NGO's have a tendency to become a little detached from the real world, getting ‘papers published’ but neglecting the activism that is so essential if we are to make changes.

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