The MFMA was established to: protect marine and coastal habitats as well as spawning grounds; prevent illegal destructive trawling; reduce conflicts over resource use among local fishers; and ensure responsible and sustainable fishing practices and effective management of marine fisheries resources and coastal ecosystems to improve the livelihoods of local communities. Trawling activities have been identified to be a main issue which causes severe harm to coral reefs, seagrass meadows and all kinds of marine species.
To establish the Kep MFMA, the Department of Fisheries Conservation (DFC) has worked in close collaboration with Mangroves for the Future (MFF) program of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Marine Conservation on Cambodia (MCC) and SEAFDEC/UNEP/GEF Fisheries Refugia Project.
The DFC has adopted the six steps of Fisheries Management Area Establishment Guideline introduced by the Fisheries Administration (FiA), focusing on the identification of potential areas, biodiversity surveys within the proposed boundary, and bottom-up approach during the consultation process, which ensures that concerns from all levels of key stakeholders – including local communities – have been taken into consideration during the formation process.
The establishment of Kep Marine Fisheries Management Area is aligned with Cambodia’s fisheries law, specifically article 18, which states that “Fishery Management Areas comprising inter alia, rapids and deep pools located in rivers, Tonle Sap Great Lake, lakes, inundated forests, group of islands, sea grass areas, coral reef area, and mangrove forests which are of importance for the sustainability of fishery resources shall be classified as Protected and Conservation Areas of Fishery Resources.”
In addition, the Fisheries Administration of MAFF is attempting to fulfill Cambodia’s international obligations and commitment to achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets by 2020. Target 11 requires that at least 17% of each signatory’s terrestrial and inland water area, and 10% of its coastal and marine area, be designated and managed as protected. So far Cambodia has two marine protected areas totaling covering nearly 70,000 ha in three coastal provinces.
The MFMA has been zoned into four different sections of (1) fisheries conservation area; (2) fisheries protection area; (3) Fisheries refugia and (4) scuba diving ecotourism area, which have key roles and functions to ensure the sustainability of fisheries resources and raise the living standards of local coastal fishers. So far about 160 cement blocks have been dropped into the key marine areas within MFMA to protect coral reefs, seagrass and spawning ground from illegal trawling and to serve as the artificial habitats for some key fish species.
Mr. Ouk Vibol, Director of Department of Fisheries Conservation, said, “Kep MFMA is another big achievement after our first former Koh Rong MFMA (now Koh Rong National Marine Park under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Environment) and plays a crucial role in contributing to reducing conflicts over marine resource use, increasing the marine fisheries resources, improving livelihoods of local coastal fishers, 80% of whom are small-scale, and building local resilience to climate change. I believe that MFMA with participatory management of relevant stakeholders will increase marine fish stocks, improve local livelihoods, protect the natural habitats, enhance the abundance of key marine cetaceans and reduce illegal fishing activities”.
Moving forward, with financial and technical support from MFF/IUCN in collaboration with Marine Conservation of Cambodia and SEAFDEC/UNEP/GEF Fisheries Refugia Project, the DFC/FiA will prepare a five-year management plan for this newly established marine fisheries management area, which provides a strategic direction for ground management activities and attracts more funding to manage this area more effectively.
Furthermore, the DFC will conduct a series of public awareness-raising events regarding the establishment of Kep MFMA along with detailing the roles and functions of this area to wider audiences and demarcate the boundary of the area for more effective patrol and management. For the time being, the Kep Administration is working on the formation of the provincial management committee and provincial technical working group for Koh Po and Koh Tonsay MFMA composed of key stakeholders at the provincial level, to ensure the successful and effective management of this area.
Blue swimming crabs collected from MFMA,, Kep, Cambodia © DFC/FiA, 2017