Less Fishes To Catch In Srepok River

Oxfam in Asia - Mekong Water Governance Program - Less Fishes to Catch in Srepok River

Oxfam in Asia : Mekong Water Governance Program (Photo by Seiha Tiep/Oxfam)

"I will commit to protect our river and the water resources. and encourage other villagers to join hands with me to prevent any further destruction to our Srepok river"
Fisherman, Srepok River

12 Dec 2017 

The Srepok river is 425 kilometers long, running from Dak Lak Province in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, into Cambodia through Ratanakiri province, and further down joining the Mekong river. Around 2.27 million people (128,074 in Cambodia and 2,139,470 in Vietnam) depend on the water resources in the Srepok River Basin for their livelihoods.

The recent drop in the fish catch in Srepok river, a major tributary of the Mekong river, causes struggle to the livelihoods of fisherfolk in Lumphat village of Ratanakiri. The reduction in the fish catch, according to Mr. Sokhon, a 65-year old local fisherman, can be attributed to a number of causes, including population increase leading to fish market demand, intensified catch by more fishers, and the use of illegal equipment such as electrocution, illegal fishing gear and nets.

Sokhon used to catch between 7 to 10 kilograms of fish per night, using a 105-meter long fishing net. This used to earn him around 40,000 Riels (approximately 10 USD) which was able to support his family’s daily living.

“Since 2011, we have seen a significant decrease in our fish catch. Even though I have extended the length of my fishing net to 175 meters, I could now only catch 2 to 5 kilograms of fish per night. Fishing is the only source of income to support our living,” said Sokhon, who used to be an official in Ratanakiri Provincial Environment Department and retired in 2010.

On top of these, one of the main concerns for the village’s fishing community is the irregular water levels flowing in the Srepok river, believed to be a consequence brought about by the upstream Yali Hydropower Dam project in Vietnam.

“My only fishing boat, which I paid for 700 USD, got destroyed in the river because of the fast fluctuation of the water. I also lost my other fishing equipment” said Sokhon.

Sokhon said he works very hard, and sometimes have to sleep for shorter hours because he has to constantly watch out for the water fluctuation. He needs to collect the fishing gear before the surge of water. He also has to wait until the water recedes to lay the fishing gear in the river.

Sokhon (right) participates in a training on River, Life and Livelihood organized by Oxfam and Northeastern Rural Development (NRD) in mid-November at Kratie, Cambodia. Photo credit: Seiha Tiep/Oxfam

In Asia, Oxfam works with local partners to help communities – along the Mekong and its tributary rivers (Sesan, Srepok and Sekong) in Kratie, Stueng Treng and Ratanakiri provinces – and share knowledge on water resource management and fishery laws. Oxfam and partners also provide opportunities for dialogue with local authorities at sub-national, national level to protect and manage the communities’ rivers and ecosystems sustainably.

Sokhon is one of the villagers who had a chance to join a recent training workshop on water resource governance, river and livelihoods, organized in Katie Province by Oxfam and its partner, Northeastern Rural Development (NRD).

In the workshop, Sokhon was happy to share with fellow participants his concerns over the Srepok River. He learned how to map the water resources and fishing spawns in the river, as well as other important skills to protect and manage his water resources.

“I will share the knowledge I gained from Oxfam’s training with my community and 30 river patrollers who actively protect our fishes in Srepok river. I will commit to protect our river and the water resources. and encourage other villagers to join hands with me to prevent any further destruction to our Srepok river,” said Sokhon.

Written by Seiha Tiep for Oxfam in Asia's Regional Mekong Water Governance Programme