Feb 13, 2009 0
We took a translator, Toro, to Koh Kang with us. He’d been a government soldier in the province in the 80s and befriended a local fisherman. Whenever one of them went hungry, the other would give him food. They ate, cooked, and kept each other company in a violent and unsure time. But, as can happen with all old friendships, they lost track of each other and hadn’t seen each other in more than 15 years.
We had a half day free, and we decided to go with Toro to his old friend’s fishing village for lunch. In the years apart, Toro’s friend had gotten married and had the nicest, cutest kid. Even though it’d been a long time, the two of them didn’t seem to miss a beat. When it was just the two of them talking, I couldn’t understand what they were saying exactly—but Toro was laughing his way through the conversation.
Now, you should always accept an invitation to dine with a fisherman. We had fresh shrimp, prawns and fish raw, barbecued and steamed—as much as we could eat. Toro’s friend engaged in bottom trawling, an incredibly destructive mode of fishing, and he complained how he’s been catching less and less these days. Like the Cambodian soldier accepting bribes, it’s hard to blame him for his fishing practices. He’s catching fish the way that he knows will support his family.
Marine Conservation Cambodia hopes to create what are basically sustainable fish farms by planting bamboo sticks woven with leaves in the water, creating a safe space for fish to breed that cannot be trawled. The result would hopefully allow for sustainable fishing and restock the oceans.
If things keep going the way they have, Toro’s friend—who, 20 years ago, could feed Toro when he was starving—will need all the help he can get just putting food on his own table. Here’s hoping Marine Conservation Cambodia’s plans work. Conservation isn’t just about the fish in water, it’s about making sure we still have fish on the table.