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Cambodia creates its first marine national park where pirate fishers prowl

12 / 03 / 2018, Mongabaycom News

In February, Cambodia announced the establishment of its very first marine national park, covering 524 square kilometers (202 square miles) in the Gulf of Thailand. But the declaration does nothing to protect the environment, at least in the short term, with no new patrols of the heavily fished waters until next year, and a $2 billion island development plan allowed to continue unhindered. Declared in the name of protecting biodiversity and encouraging tourism, the Koh Rong Marine National Park takes in the seven islands of the Koh Rong archipelago, 10.5 kilometers (6.5 miles) offshore, and the web of coral, seagrass and mangrove ecosystems around them. It expands upon a conservation area set up in 2016 that already restricts certain kinds of fishing. “The existing plan is not enough; the new area extends to protecting terrestrial, as well as marine [areas],” Thay Chantha, director of marine conservation at Cambodia’s Environment Ministry, which is charged with managing the new park, told Mongabay. Wedged between Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia’s tiny territorial waters have long been plundered by illegal fishing gangs feeding an ever-rising demand for seafood. Under the 2016 conservation plan, island locals were put to work patrolling their waters. The scheme appears to have curtailed illegal activity, but in no way eradicated it. “We cannot say they have been successful,” Chantha said of the patrols, which are managed by the Fisheries Administration, a government agency dogged by corruption and hamstrung by a severe lack of resources. The Koh Rong National Marine Park…

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