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The inland fisheries of Cambodia are among the most productive in the world and contribute considerably to national food security. Fish from waters all over the country provide an essential part of the daily diet for millions of people.

The fisheries of the Tonle Sap make up almost two thirds of all inland catches. Together with the forests, they are Cambodia’s most important renewable natural resource. Not only does fishery sustain the livelihood of many families, it also provides an essential contribution to the national economy and is a source of foreign currency income.

Nowadays, the bounty of the Tonle Sap is intensively exploited. This seems justified but entails considerable risks. Therefore, sufficient understanding of the natural productivity is required to allow durable exploitation, safeguarding the resource for future generations.

The issues that threaten the existence of the Tonle Sap fisheries as known today are numerous and diverse. The undervaluation of the fisheries risks to contribute to the situation where the sector cannot withstand critical challenges, e.g. from proposed dam construction and the subsequent alterations to the hydrology of the main fishing grounds.

Maintaining the parameters of the complex ecosystem that enable the exceptional production of fish is crucial and possibly the only effective management strategy for the fisheries of the Tonle Sap.

This publication aims at contributing to a better understanding of the Tonle Sap ecosystem and the fisheries and aquaculture sectors. It is written for those who will make the crucial decisions about the future exploitation of the natural richness of the Tonle Sap.

Veravat Hongskul
Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission
Bangkok, September 2001

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