Cambodia Strengthens Local Fisheries through New Fishways


August 30, 2022. Thanks to two new fishways funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), fish and other aquatic organisms in Cambodia will be able to travel upstream and bypass irrigation structures, increasing the amount of fish available to local communities in Pursat Province. The fishways, whose construction finished on August 24, 2022, will also connect fish with critical upstream habitats vital to their life cycle. These fishways also demonstrate that small-scale fish passes are a feasible, relatively inexpensive solution to the problem of declining fish stocks.

“Locally-caught fish serve as a key source of food for many Cambodians,” said Rebecca Black, USAID/Cambodia Acting Mission Director. “By protecting fish populations and their habitats, we hope these fishways will also contribute to improved health for the communities that depend on them.”

The new Pursat fishways are part of a regional Fish Passage Initiative, supported in partnership with Cambodia’s Department of Fisheries, the Mekong River Commission, Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center, Australian Center for International Agriculture Research, and Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. The five-year initiative, part of the USAID Smart Infrastructure for the Mekong (SIM) program, has assisted Lower Mekong countries in the inventory and prioritization of barriers to fish passage, training on fish passage design and engineering, and coordination between irrigation departments and fisheries departments throughout the Lower Mekong region to address this transboundary challenge.

Cambodia’s Department of Fisheries partnered with USAID to build two previous demonstration fish passes in 2019 and 2021. Monitoring of those sites demonstrated that over a million fish representing more than 100 species use the fishways to access over 2,000 kilometers of previously unreachable habitat.

USAID and partner organizations visited the newly-constructed fishways on August 29 to discuss the benefits of the project with local leaders and promote the development of a comprehensive plan for fish passage throughout Cambodia and the region.

This initiative is supported by USAID and the U.S. Department of Interior.