Fisheries Country Profile: Cambodia (2018)

by Thuch Panha
2018 Regional Fisheries Policy Network (RFPN) for Cambodia


Cambodia shares its international borders with Lao PDR, Viet Nam, and Thailand (Figure 1). The country covers a total area of 181,035 km2 composed of 97.5 % land and 2.5 % water. The 440 km coastline of the country is covered with extensive mangrove forest. The bodies of water include rivers, lakes, floodplains, reservoirs, dams, wetlands, and others. The country is surrounded by low mountains and lowlands where Mekong River runs across from the north-eastern border with Lao PDR to the southern border with Viet Nam. Around 86 % of the country lies within the Mekong River catchment areas. The Tonle Sap Lake, which is situated in the central western part of the country and the largest and the most productive lake in Southeast Asia, serves as a natural reservoir of the Mekong River system, extending from 2,500-4,000 km2 in dry season and to 10,000-15,000 km2 in wet season and has 4,800 km2 of flood forest coverage (Chin, 2013).

Figure 1. Map of Cambodia

The country’s population in 2016 was 15.8 million. Fish is the most important source of animal protein for Cambodians’ diet with a consumption of 63 kg/person/year (IFReDI, 2013). Moreover, fish also plays a major role in the economy where fisheries contributed 6 % to 8 % gross domestic product or around 34.7 % of products from the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries sector.

Status and Trend of Fisheries Production

Total Fisheries Production

Cambodia has a rich biodiversity of freshwater and marine fishery resources. The primary sources of fish are the Great Lake, Mekong River, and Bassac River; and the secondary sources are the coastal areas of the Gulf of Thailand. The production of Cambodia was in an increasing trend from 2009 to 2017, which composed of inland capture fisheries, marine fisheries, and aquaculture (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Fisheries production of Cambodia in 2009-2017 by quantity (MT)

Inland Capture Fisheries

There are approximately 500 aquatic species in the Mekong River and 296 fish species in Tonle Sap Lake. Other aquatic animals include crabs, snails, frogs, snakes, turtles, and shrimps that can be found in inland waters. The important species for inland capture fisheries are listed in Table 1.

Table 1. Important species for inland fisheries in Cambodia

Scientific name Common name
Henicorhynchus caudimaculatus Red-finned black shark
Paralaubucariveroi sp. Siamese river abramine
Dangila sp.
Osteochilus hasselti Bony-lipped barb
Botia modesta Yellowtail botia
Thynnichthys thynnoides Small-scaled barb
Belodontichthys dinema Twisted-jaw catfish
Morulius chrysophekadion Greater black shark
Puntioplites proctozysron Smith’s barb
Cyclocheilich thysenoplos Soldier river barb
Henicorhynchus siamensis Siamese mud carp
Channa striata Striped snakehead
Channa micropeltes Giant snakehead
Clarias batrachus Walking catfish, Batrachian walking catfish
Trichogaster pectoralis Snakeskin gourami

Constraints in inland capture fisheries:
• Habitat destruction along the Mekong River is the biggest threat to the fishery resources in Cambodia and neighboring countries.
• The impact of dams along the upper Mekong and its tributaries on fish migration and water levels is apparent. Dams constrain fish migration and reproduction which are important in maintaining fish stocks.
• Logging has a serious impact on freshwater fisheries resulting to downstream siltation of water bodies and decreases the reproduction areas of many fish species.
• There is no data related to catch per unit effort, thus, it is hard to identify the trends of specific fishery commodities and management of fisheries to ensure the sustainability is difficult.

Marine Capture Fisheries

The marine capture fisheries in Cambodia is categorized into small-scale or artisanal and middle-scale. Almost 90 % of the marine fisheries production in Cambodia is from two coastal provinces, Sihanouk and Koh Kong (Figure 3). Fishing vessels in Cambodia are categorized by power of the engine and Figure 4 shows the number of fishing vessels from 2007 to 2011. The Fisheries Administration (FiA) issues the permit or license at cantonment level for fishing vessels with engine power less than 33 HP and at central level for fishing vessels with engine power more than 33 HP. There are 56 types of marine fishing gears and the 12 most commonly used fishing gears in the coastal areas are shown in Table 2. The production of common species in marine capture fisheries is shown in Table 3.

Figure 3. Marine capture fisheries production from the three coastal provinces in Cambodia in 2007-2011 by quantity (MT)
Figure 4. Number of fishing vessels in Cambodia in 2007-2011

Table 2. Most commonly used fishing gears in the coastal areas of Cambodia

Fishing gear Number of unit
Trawl 2,007 sets
Surrounding net 5,100 sets
Scomberomorus gill net 404,000 meters
Shrimp gill net 276,700 meters
Crab gill net 1,108,500 meters
Blue tail mullet net 104,500 meters
Gill net 325,600 meters
Indian mackerel net 364,400 meters
Blood cockle motorized 123 boats
Hook sand lines 109,200 meters
Fyke net 108 sets
Traps (fish, crab, squid) 340,960 sets

Table 3. Production of marine capture fisheries in Cambodia in 2007-2011 by quantity (MT)

Species 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Crabs 4,158 4,310 4,559 4,278 3,517
Squids 3,409 2,930 3,115 4,716 5,235
Shrimps 4,183 4,900 5,247 5,827 6,481
Short fin scad 3,531 4,415 3,656 2,416 1,669
Waigieu seaperch 109 215 205 187 192
Groupers 147 250 233 241 220
Sharp jaw bonefish 794 1,120 1,162 1,282 1,262
Blood cockle 699 625 1,379 1,191 1,862
Mysis shrimp for shrimp paste 52 1,430 1,732 1,823 1,850
Trash fish 2,020 20,970 23,357 28,758 32,222

Constraints in marine capture fisheries:
• The marine fish stocks are heavily exploited due to the high density of the coastal population around the Gulf of Thailand.
• The process of fishing boat registration and the cooperation between relevant agencies are still weak and need to be improved.
• There is a weak collaboration with fishers in data collection, particularly for large marine fishing boats. There is no proper landing areas for catch from small-scale fishing.
• Highly diverse small-scale fishing gears are not registered and lack of fisheries officer and financial support in collecting fisheries information.


• Inland aquaculture

Cage and pen culture is reported that it originated since the 10th century. Pond culture was introduced during the 1960s. Rice field system was introduced 1994 and crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) farming has started since the early 20th century. Table 4 and Table 5 show the indigenous and exotic species of fish for inland farming in Cambodia, respectively.

Table 4. Indigenous species for inland aquaculture in Cambodia

Species Culture method Seeds source
Striped Catfish
(Pangasianodon hypophthalmus)
Cage and pond Hatchery and wild
Basa catfish
(Pangasius bocourti)
Cage Wild
Spotted ear catfish
(Pangasius larnaudii)
Cage Wild
Snail eating fish
(Pangasianodon conchophilus)
Cage Wild
Giant Snakehead
(Channa micropeltes)
Cage Wild
Striped Snakehead
(C. striata)
Cage Wild
Silver barb
(Barbonymus gonionotus)
Cage, pond, rice paddy Hatchery and wild
Red tailed tinfoil
(Barbonymus altus)
Pond, rice paddy Hatchery and wild
Marble goby
(Oxyeleotris marmorata)
Cage and pond Wild
Climbing perch
(Anabas testudineus)
Pond Hatchery

Table 5. Exotic species for inland aquaculture in Cambodia

Species Culture method Seeds source
Nile tilapia
(Oreochromis niloticus)
Cage and pond Hatchery
Common carp
(Cyprinus carpio)
Pond and rice paddy Hatchery
Silver carp
(Hypophthalmichhys molitrix)
Pond Hatchery
Bighead carp
(Aristichtys nobilis)
Pond Hatchery
Grass carp
(Ctenopharyngodon idella)
Pond Hatchery
Indian carp
(Cirrhinus mrigala)
Pond Hatchery
Hybrid catfish Pond Hatchery

• Mariculture

Marine finfish culture in Cambodia began in the late 1980s and early 1990s both in Kampot and Koh Kong. Unfortunately, mariculture collapsed in 1993 due to freshwater runoff from heavy rains. Marine cage culture restarted in the early 2000s and currently there is around 1,000 MT of production from marine cage culture in Sihanouk, Kampot, and Koh Kong. The species cultured are mainly seabass (60-70 %) and grouper. Seeds are sourced from the wild, from Thailand (for seabasses), Indonesia, and Taiwan (for groupers). Feed is exclusively trash fish which is sourced locally. The other mariculture species consisted finfish species (amberjacks, seabreams, seabasses, croakers, groupers, drums, mullets, turbot and other flatfishes, snappers, cobia, pompano, cods, puffers and tunas), marine mollusks (oysters, mussels, clams, cockles, arkshells and scallops), marine crustaceans and other aquatic animals (sea cucumbers, and sea urchins). However, mariculture in Cambodia is currently suffering from chronic disease problems (up to 50 % losses), which seem to be endemic throughout the region.

• Ornamental fish culture

The ornamental fish cultured in Cambodia are mostly imported from Thailand, Viet Nam, Singapore, and Malaysia. The imported ornamental fish species were introduced for culture and trade to enjoy the beauty of fish and for luck, which become more widespread. The important ornamental fish species are listed in Table 6.

Table 6. Important ornamental fish species in Cambodia

Common name Scientific name
Siamese fighting fish Betta splendens
Tiger barb Puntigrus tetrazona
Asian bonytogue Scleropages formosus
Angelfish Pterophyllum scalare
Koi Cyprinus carpio
Gold fish Carassius auratus
Black ghost knife fish Sternarchus albifrons
Giant gourami Ophronemus gouramy
Pearl gourami Trichogaster leeri
Red finned fish Metynnis sp.
Black tetra fish Gymnocorymbus sp.
Oscar Astronotus ocellatus
Discus Symphysodon discus
Jewel cichlid Hemichromis bimaculatus
Tiger botia Botia macracantha
Bellybarred pipefish Hippichthys spicifer
Midget sucker catfish Hypostumus sp.
Guppy of million fish Poecilia sp.
Platy Platypoecilus maculatus
Badis Badis badis burmanicus
Giant arapaima Arapaima gigas
Swordtail Xiphophorus sp.
Goonch Bagarius yarrelli
Malayan angel Monodactylus argenteus

Constraints in aquaculture (Somony & Viset, 2018)
• Dependency on capture fishery increasing pressure on wild fishery
• Most seeds currently imported
• All pelleted feeds imported from Vietnam and Thailand; very limited quality assurance
• Informal “taxes” lead to high transport costs
• Poor national and local biosecurity
• Disease prevention and management systems poorly developed
• Most government hatcheries underperforming, with poor management and protocols
• Lack of clarity of role and function of government hatcheries
• Limited access to high quality broodstock
• Historic training mostly project-based with no long term national strategic extension support
• Leakage of trained personnel at higher levels to other sectors/activities

Fisheries Post-harvest and Processing

Cambodia has a centuries old tradition of processing freshwater fish. Products include fish paste, fermented fish, dry salted fish, smoked fish, fish sauce, and dried fish for animal feed. These fish products are mainly for the domestic market. For the domestic market, the most important fish for processing are Cirrhinus species, which are caught in huge amounts during the annual migration from the Tonle Sap Lake. Processed marine fish commodities include shrimp, lobster, crab, squid, octopus, cuttlefish, much of which is dried.

The major challenges faced by the fish processors are poor quality of raw materials, lack of access to funds, and lack of resources to find international markets. Furthermore, lack of good quality infrastructure is making the products less competitive in the international markets.

Fisheries Policies and Legal Frameworks

Policies related to fisheries in Cambodia were in accordance to the National Fisheries Sector Policy with the vision “management, conservation, and development of sustainable fisheries resources to contribute to ensuring people’s food security and to socioeconomic development in order to enhance people’s livelihoods and national’s prosperity.” To achieve this vision, the Royal Government of Cambodia has formulated the following policies:

• Management and Development of Fisheries
– Managing and utilizing sustainable fisheries resources to enhance food security and food safety and to contribute to poverty alleviation
– Promoting and encouraging fishing activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and in the international fishing grounds by strictly implementing the Regional Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the laws of the Kingdom of Cambodia
• Management of Community Fisheries and Family Fisheries
– Encouraging the effective establishment of community fisheries in inland and coastal areas in order to enhance the management of sustainable fisheries resources by empowering local communities
– Promoting sustainable livelihoods to fishermen in both socioeconomic and nutritional terms
• Management and Development of Aquaculture
– Encouraging the development of different kinds and scales of aquaculture, both inland and coastal, by implementing the “Regional Code of Conduct for Aquaculture”
– Extension of indigenous species of fauna and flora aquaculture, especially of species with a high economic export value
– Carefully monitoring the import of exotic fauna and flora species that may have a negative impact on Cambodia’s fisheries resources
• Management and Development of Fish Processing
– Developing fish processing and packaging by encouraging large-scale investments and improving the fisheries infrastructure
– Developing fish processing technologies and enlarging domestic markets by supporting small-scale investments to community fisheries and to fishermen
– Promoting economic cooperation by collecting and disseminating fish marketing management information
– Ensuring the quality and safety of fishery products
• Conservation of Fisheries Resources
– Reviewing and disseminating regulations for law enforcement and crackdown of all illegal fishing activities and preserving the inundated forest
– Increasing awareness of people in fisheries communities and general fishermen to the importance of conservation of fisheries resources and ensuring maximum participation from local communities with respect to fisheries management and conservation
– Protecting the important natural habitats and biodiversity
– Ensuring wide coordination with all relevant sectors in order to reduce the potential negative impact on fisheries resources as a result of developments in these other sectors
– Strengthening and increasing the conservation of sustainable fisheries resources through increased cooperation between stakeholders
• Development of Fisheries Institutions and Their Infrastructure
– Promoting human resource development within fisheries sector to ensure quality service within fisheries in order to improve socioeconomic development
– Providing training courses on fisheries and fisheries related laws to ensure awareness of all regulations and fisheries management processes
– Encouraging and promoting fisheries research programs
• Budget and Fisheries Infrastructure
– Promoting investment in fisheries sector and developing the fisheries infrastructure to increase the competitive market of the fisheries sector
– Giving priority to using the fisheries revenue through special financial procedures in order to achieve fisheries reforms, research conservation, development, and surveillance.

Gender Policies

Cambodia’s constitution states that “men and women have equal rights and enjoy equal participation in political, economic, social and cultural life; equality in marriage and family; and employment and equal pay for the same work;” while the Gender Mainstreaming policy and strategic framework in the agriculture sector 2016-2020 states the need for “enhancement of gender equality in the Agriculture sector through active cooperation of both women and men for the opportunity to contribute and benefit equality from the activities of all sub-sectors in the agriculture sector.”

Figure 5 shows the system of communication/coordination, network, and partnership of gender action in Cambodia. FiA endorsed an Action Plan for Gender Equality Promotion and Child Labour Elimination in the Fisheries, 2016-2020 with the following objectives:
• to build capacity of relevant stakeholders at all levels on gender equality and child labour in the fisheries sectors;
• to promote gender roles economic empowerment through good practices of Community Fisheries management;
• to prevent and withdraw children from child labour and from hazardous work in the fisheries sectors; and
• to improve monitoring and evaluation (M&E) mechanisms on gender equality and child labour addressing in the fisheries sector.

Figure 5. Communication/coordination, network, and partnership of gender action in Cambodia


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Khim K., & Vuthy L., (2018). Gender Equality Promotion in the Fisheries Sector in Cambodia. Fisheries Administration, Cambodia.

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