The Fisheries Administration has announced the time is almost here for those wanting to make prahok and pha-ak – both fermented fish products – with the first phase of a good fishing season beginning Friday and lasting until December 27.
The second phase will be from January 21 to 26 if the sky is clear and there is no unseasonal rain.
The director of the Fisheries Administration appealed to people wanting to make prahok (fermented fish paste) or pha-ak (fermented fish with sticky rice), to buy fish at the end of this week and at the end of January along the Tonle Sap fishing areas.
Nao Thuok, secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said that authorities expect fish products to increase compared with last year based on an examination of the water level in the Tonle Sap.
“If we look at the water situation from the beginning of the season, the water has risen early. In the Chaktomuk area, the water level is one and a half meters higher than in 2016,” he said.
“In the Tonle Sap lake, the water level is nearly two metres higher than last year so there will be many small fish. So we hope this year’s fish yield will be better than last year.”
He said the water level in the Tonle Sap increased over the previous year, giving female fish the chance to have many births and grow larger in size.
Hai Song Hoeun, a resident of Kampong Speu province’s Kong Pisey district, said his family has always made 100 to 200 kilos of prahok every year to prepare for the rainy season.
“As I have noticed, the window for making prahok and pha-ak seems to be shorter from year to year. The cost of fish keeps rising which almost prevents poor people from making it,” he said.
“Last year, I could only buy a little amount of fish to make prahok,” he said, adding that he would buy the prahok fish this year as soon as possible.
Om Sarat, director of the Fisheries Action Coalition Team, said that a high water level and protection of fisheries could result in more fish production this year, but despite better protection and some crackdowns, fishing offences still occurred and remained a concern.
“We have measured that our natural fish output will increase this year,” he said.
He added that fish caught in the Tonle Sap lake would cost buyers in the area about 700 to 1,000 riel per kilo, with traders selling them at urban markets from between 1,500 and 2,000 riel, about $0.50, per kilo.
“During a good fish season, prices might be cheap, enabling Cambodian farmers to buy it to make prahok. As I have observed, the fish used to make prahok and pha-ak is very rich in some places. The big fish is also rich so we can guess this year’s fish will be pretty good.”
According to the Fisheries Administration, fishermen in Cambodia caught 80,000 tonnes of fish in 2016, an increase of six percent compared with about 75,000 tonnes in 2015. Total fish production increased by 50,000 tonnes, including 30,000 tonnes of aquaculture and about 20,000 tonnes of fish in natural lakes.