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> …AND FISHING VILLAGES WITH A FLOATING LIVELIHOOD

Preserved forest, fishing boon, feather symphony and floating villages -- a delicate balance

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The flooded forest of Prek Toal has been designated as a core area (21,000 ha) of the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve based on its botanical diversity and its nesting colonies of threatened waterbirds. The core area (boundaries in black on the map) is in theory dedicated to biodiversity conservation but in reality, it was intensely exploited as a commercial fishing concession until 2011. The fishing lot covered no less than 50,000 ha (area delineated in red on the map) and was the most productive and lucrative area of the lake with a value in fish estimated at 3 million dollars per year. However, the recent abolishment of fishing lots by the Prime Minister Hun Sen creates a new challenge for ensuring protection of the waterbird colonies and their unique habitat.

Several fishing villages comprising 1,200 families lie around the core area where the villagers live in houses floating on a bamboo rafts or in houseboats, an adaptation to the ebb and flow of the lake. Over 150 different types of fishing gear have been inventoried on the lake. Commercial level fishing involves large traps and fences, however most villagers fish at a subsistence level while others engage in raising or preserving fish. The entire economy of the floating villages is directly or indirectly dependent upon fishing.
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