Bamboo fence fish traps around Tonlé Sap lake

In many areas on the biggest Cambodian lake, its tributary river and Mekong flood plains, permanent bamboo fence fish traps, or more appropriately named: catching structures, are erected and operated.

The leader fence, guiding fish into the inner compartments of the trap, can be up to 500 meters long. Inner compartments consist of either one or more pre-catching rooms leading to either one or more heart-shaped catching rooms. At the end of the last catching room, a horizontal bamboo fish-holding chamber is located, which will be harvested regularly.

Such bamboo fence traps not only catch fish but also water snakes, which complicates fish removal. But locals are ruthless towards snakes, and all will be killed immediately. In some areas, they serve as fodder for crocodile farms.

Lesson learned about bamboo fence fish traps in Cambodia

  • These fish traps are erected by concession holders of fishing blocs on Tonlé Sap Lake. Also – in smaller versions – by small-scale fishermen in areas outside of concessions.
  • There are widespread frictions between concession holders and small-scale fishermen at this lake. This is due to economic interests on the one hand and the need for the survival of very poor families on the other.
  • Bamboo fence traps can be easily pulled and re-erected in receding waters or flood plains.
  • When cleaning out these structures at the catching end, special care has to be taken not to get bitten by water snakes.

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