Conservation and Environment in Cambodia: Monthly Updates
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Cambodia Marine Conservation Project – March 2012
The month of March was incredibly busy with both positive and negative aspects. On the positive side we saw the return of some very important marine species into the area, improved our reef methodology and another successful games day bought the volunteers and the community together. Not so great was the return of illegal fishing vessels in high numbers, mainly trawling boats. This saw the introduction of a new activity for volunteers - boat watch.
We continued to train volunteers in seahorse surveys so that they understand the methodology and can do basic seahorse monitoring. However only a few seahorse surveys were completed as we have focused on our reef surveys this month.
As if the volunteers didn't already have enough to learn with the reef surveys we have now altered our surveys a little. The data collected now is much more detailed; the main changes are recording many more fish species and also looking more specifically at the substrate composition. Our amazing volunteers have worked so hard at learning all these different aspects and have successfully completed 5 surveys. The surveys have involved going to some sites a little further around the island.
Excitingly this month we had two separate sightings of sea turtles at two different dive sites that we regularly dive. There have been 5 turtles seen in the area in the last 3 years so to see two this month is a very positive sign that the health of the ecosystem is really improving.
Also this month on the crossing from Sihanoukville to the island a pod of dolphins was sighted. It is an encouraging sign that bigger sea creatures are coming back because when there is chronic over fishing like there is in Cambodia the big things are first to go.
Illegal Fishing Activities
We felt like we were back at day one of the project this month with the return of the trawling boats in large numbers. For the past three years our biggest battle has been stopping the trawling boats, and it was all going well. They were respecting the laws and staying out of the community fishing area.
However this month more than 20 boats were brought in and processed. With the increase in biodiversity in the area and the increase in village catches the boats returned. This development saw the introduction of boat watch where volunteers take turns watching for the trawling boats on the far side of the village were the boats can come and go without being observed by the village and the volunteers when they are going about the day's regular routine.
There was also a small Vietnamese boat caught, which had illegally collected sea cucumbers.
Reptile and Amphibian Project
Visiting academics from America came to the island in order to try and create a species list of all reptiles and amphibians on the island. They went trekking in the jungle however most of their species came from pictures that staff and volunteers had taken over the years of the project. After they left it was up to the volunteers to take on the jungle treks and try and document as many different species as possible.
The kid’s classes are continuing smoothly and it is nice for our permanent English teacher to have the help of two volunteers who are here to help out with the teaching. This month has also seen the introduction of a new class for the older boys in the village and includes the village chief. These guys all work in some way with foreigners either on boats, guest bungalows or on the project, as a result their English lessons are tailored to help them converse with tourists.
Another successful games day was held with similar activities as last month with the addition of pier jumping. About 50 children, 20 volunteers and a few adults were involved; it has proved a great way for the project and village to meet.
Our dive boat came out of the water for a clean and a new coat of paint, it is now back in the water and is easily the most recognisable longtail in the water.
A mini gardening project has started up with volunteers planting chilli, tomato, capsicum and pumpkin seeds in small containers. Fingers crossed that in the next few months we will have some home grown produce.
Project Coordinator, Cambodia