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Sea-farming project will be expanded

THAILAND - Sea-farming communities on Songkhla Lake will be expanded to boost the shrimp catch and improve the incomes and lives of the fishermen and their families, fisheries officials say.

The project encourages the communities to set their own fishing rules and catch. It has been operating for four years amid concerns that it could invite excessive fishing in the lake, which is full of shrimp traps and bag nets.

However, officials insist that fishermen who join the project are being trained in sustainable fishing methods, aimed at striking a balance between a good catch while also preserving the environment.

So far 7,000 of the lake's 600,000 rai has been designated for sea-farming communities, in Songkhla's Sathing Phra district and Phatthalung's Pak Phayun district. A survey concluded that up to 235,000 rai of the lake could be turned into sea-farming communities, coastal fisheries researcher Yongyut Pridalampabut said.

Under the project, local villagers who went to work in cities are being urged to return home and get involved in fishing in their neighbourhood, and at the same time practice the sufficiency economy principle, department chief Charanthada Kannasutr said.

Several million black tiger prawns have been released by the department in the community fishing areas. Thousands of fishermen are reportedly making profits from prawn sales. However, the department is being accused of doing little to control the amount of fishing gear, including shrimp trammel nets, used in the lake.

Trammel nets have three layers: the outer two are coarse mesh and the loose inner layer is fine mesh. They are placed near the lake surface to trap shrimp and fish carried along by the current. Some fishermen leave the nets in the lake day and night to catch more shrimp.

Fisheries officials argue the project was carefully planned and carried out.

"How much we can extend it depends largely on the readiness of the communities," said Mr Charanthada.

Under the concept, each community discusses the most appropriate fishing methods, including net sizes and catch. Violators face punishment.

Source: Bangkok Post