Conservation and Environment in Cambodia: Monthly Updates
Cambodia Marine Conservation Project – April 2012
April was as always a very exciting and unpredictable month. The reason being that Cambodians celebrate Khmer New Year, which is a 3 day national holiday, however, on the island this can often stretch out for over a week.
Even though there was plenty of celebrating and dancing the project was still very busy with reef check surveys and capturing some more illegal Vietnamese fishermen.
This month we really focused on the health of the surrounding reefs. We had a great team of volunteers that worked really hard to complete 19 reef check surveys around Koh Rong Samloem and Koh Koun. The longer staying volunteers also helped with the training of 8 new volunteers with the new reef check methodology which includes a more detailed look at fish species and coral families.
As well as the reef check surveys which look at the health and biodiversity of the reefs we also introduced fish surveys. The fish surveys are designed to monitor fish populations of target species.
This month a pair of six banded angelfish, Pomacanthus sexstriatus, were sighted on Backdoor, one of the local dive sights. This is the first sighting of the fully grown pair.
Illegal Fishing Activities
Once again we fought the good fight against illegal Vietnamese air pipe fishing boats. The use of air pipes is illegal all over Cambodia not just in the community fishing zone. They were collecting sea cucumbers and also commercial tops. This was the second time that they had been caught fishing in the community fishing zone. After the chief of the village had taken their details the boat captain was taken back to Sihanoukville so that the fisheries could reprimand them for the repeat offence. Consequently the fisheries department could confiscate their fishing boat and also impose a large fine.
On the same day volunteers came across a huge crab net on one of their dives they recovered it and brought the 500+m net back. Unfortunately it was owned by own of the villages, after we talked to the chief, he talked to the family who was responsible for the net. The extended family didn’t know that he was fishing in the community fishing zone and the man agreed to not use the net in the community fishing zone again. If he does the volunteers have permission to confiscate it permanently.
Volunteers also recovered traps laid on House Reef, this is the one area of the community fishing zone where there is a total ban on all fishing. This reef acts like a nursery for fish so that when the area is saturated the fish populations move further on to outlying reefs. As yet no one from the village has come to collect the traps, so hopefully it is no one from the village fishing in the area.
With all the festivities of Khmer New Year the volunteers worked extra hard in ensuring that the village was kept clean when the village was in party mode, the kids also helped out with village cleans. Volunteers also continued with beach and reef cleans as always finding plenty of rubbish to collect.
April has been a strange month for the English school as Khmer New Year celebrations kicked in and the whole village was in a celebratory mood. However the school did not completely cease all activities, classes still continued before and after the Khmer New Year holiday. The monthly games day was a huge success with not only the kids playing but also all the adults in the village games included tug of war, a Khmer game a little like capture the flag and of course many talcum powder shinnanigans went on. Swimming lessons were even more popular than usual with everybody trying to wash off all the excess powder. Adult classes continued throughout the New Year celebrations and a new beginner adult class for the women has also been introduced.
We are still trialling a new little gardening project. From seeds we have started to grow chilli, pepper and tomatoes. We lost the pumpkin seeds from last month but so far this month it seems to be going very well with the seeds starting to sprout.
Khmer New Year is always a special time in Cambodia and on the island of Koh Rong Samloem where the community is so small it offers something a little extra. You cannot walk through the village without being attacked by talcum powder, getting pulled into a game of tug of war or a dance and Khmer music rings out day and night. However it is also a sacred time with monks coming to the island to bless the village and we enjoyed a big communal meal with volunteers and villagers alike.
Project Coordinator, Cambodia