Cambodia celebrates World Oceans Day

Almost three quarters of the earth’s surface is covered with water. This vast body generates most of the oxygen we breathe, regulates our climate, and provides food and livelihoods for an estimated 44% of the world’s population living within 150 kilometres of the coastline.

Saturday 8 June is World Oceans Day — a day where a global population celebrates, honours, and recognises the vital importance of the oceans that connect us all.

Since it began in 2002, World Oceans Day aims to raise awareness of the critical issues our oceans are facing. Events centred around the day are celebratory but also work to empower communities whose very existence depends on the fundamental services our oceans provide.

In Cambodia, fish provide over 80% of animal protein consumed by the national population, so maintaining a healthy marine environment and productive fisheries is crucial to the wellbeing and long-term sustainability of coastal communities, the majority of whom still rely on traditional fishing practices as their primary source of food and income.

The theme for World Oceans Day 2013 is, ‘together we have the power to protect the ocean’. Fauna & Flora International, the Song Saa Foundation and Coral Cay Conservation are collaborating with local authorities and communities to show support for inhabitants of the island of Koh Rong, taking part in an all day, hands-on event in a show of solidarity and willingness to address a critical issue that threatens the homes and livelihoods of the communities of this region – and innumerable others around the globe.

Koh Rong south aspect. Credit: Jeremy Holden/FFI
Koh Rong south aspect. Credit: Jeremy Holden/FFI

“This event helps us remember the value of our marine resources and action we can take together to protect them,” said Ouk Vibol, Director of the Department of Fisheries Conservation of the Cambodian Government’s Fisheries Administration. “We are in the process of establishing a Marine Fisheries Management Area around the islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem, with the aim of protecting habitats such as coral reef and mangrove for the benefit of local fishing communities and tourism.“

A coastal clean-up will remove as much rubbish as possible around the shoreline and village of Prek Svay, while snorkelers and scuba divers will clear nearby reefs where discarded plastics and abandoned fishing equipment endangers marine life. Mangrove forests growing on the boundary between land and sea, provide crucial areas for fish to breed and grow.

Credit: Jeremy Holden/FFI
Credit: Jeremy Holden/FFI

In recognition of their significance, one thousand seedlings will be distributed for planting, many of which will be distributed to fishermen from around the Koh Rong Archipelago, so that they can return to their villages and initiate mangrove planting, promoting the importance of mangrove forests and the vital role they play in the surrounding environment.