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Koh Rong Archipelago becomes first marine sanctuary in Cambodia

Cambodia will get its first ever marine protected sanctuary in the waters of the Koh Rong Archipelago. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for Cambodia has approved the move that will see the protection of 405 square kilometres of the Marine Fisheries Management Area (MFMA), and its inhabitants including turtles and seahorses, and key breeding sites.

Koh Rong Archipelago becomes first marine sanctuary in Cambodia

The waters surrounding the Koh Rong Archipelago in Cambodia will become the country’s first-ever protected marine area. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries approved the sanctuary that will help protect important species.

The Marine Fisheries Management Area (MFMA) will span 405 square kilometres around the islands of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem, and will help protect species including sea turtles and seahorses, and important breeding sites and nurseries.

Fishing, research and tourism will still be permitted in the area but it will be restricted. Ouk Vibol, the Director of the Department of Fisheries Conservation, explained:

“The MFMA will help to drive sustainable fishing activities of the community, protect biodiversity and promote ecotourism, all of which contribute to achieving the goal of the fisheries sector. This is a good management model, as many stakeholders — including development partners, the private sector, local authorities and the local community — are working together to manage the fisheries resource for sustainable use.”

Over the past five years, non-profit conservation organisations like Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and local groups such as the Song Saa Foundation and Save Cambodian Marine Life, have been working together with the Fisheries Administration to create the marine sanctuary.

The Song Saa Foundation has been observing the health of coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrasses in the area, to provide data that can be used for future management strategies. Ben Thorne, Project Director with the foundation says that the new marine park is a huge step in protecting the diverse marine species in the archipelago, as well as helping the local communities who rely on fishing and tourism in the area.

The Koh Rong Archipelago is located 25 kilometres off the coast of Sihanoukville in south west Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Rong in the second largest island in Cambodia and is home to 43 kilometres of unspoilt beaches, four small villages with approximately 12 guest houses and bungalows. At night, the island’s beaches are magically lit up on the shoreline with the blue glowing phosphorescent plankton.

The waters off the Koh Rong Archipelago are home to a plethora of marine creatures including three species of sea turtles, dugong, many species of rare sea horses, and hundreds of different species of tropical fish. The island of Koh Rong Sanloem is located four kilometres south of Koh Rong Island and is a popular scuba diving and snorkelling spot due to its small reefs and diverse miniature eco-systems.

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