GNF - Threatened Lake 2016 - Tonle Sap Lake

Threatened Lake of the Year 2016:

Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia

 Map of the Tanle Sap Lake

Tonle Sap Lake



2,500 km² (dry season)

16,000 km² (rainy season)



160 km (dry season)

250 km (rainy season)



1 - 2 m (dry season)

8 - 11 m (rainy season)


Sea level: 

0,5 m


Interview with Mr. Savath Om

Executive Director of Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT)


Question: Which are the most severe problems and challenges that Tonle Sap Lake is facing?

Answer: The most severe problems and challenges that Tonle Sap Lake is facing are:

  • Overfishing with illegal fishing methods, which include: poison, explosives, electro-fishing, small mesh-size of the nets.
  • Negative effects caused by climate change such as droughts and storms. Some parts of the water body became very dry during the hot season with the result of insufficient water in some conservation areas.
  • Illegal clearance of flooded forest.
  • The construction of dams in the Mekong River Basin leads to decreased water inflow from the Mekong River into the Tonle Sap Lake and reduced sediment rates. Moreover, fish migration is disturbed.


Question: Which are the main sources of livelihoods for the local population at Tonle Sap Lake?

Answer: The main sources of income for the local population are fishing, eco-tourism, rice cultivation, crops plantation, and livestock. In the catchment of Tonle Sap Lake, a maximum of 6 kg fish per family per day can be caught. Most fish are small size.


Question: Does commercial fishing have any effects on the lake?

Answer: Yes, commercial fishing has negative effects on the water ecosystem and on the biodiversity in and around the lake. Within the last few years it affected significantly the population of larger fish species, like Mekong Giant Catfish (Pangasianodon gigas), Giant Barb (Catlocarpio siamensis), Jullien's Golden Carp (Probarbus jullieni) and Siamese Tiger Fish (Coius undecimradiatus).


Question: Where is the fish caught in the Tonle Sap Lake mainly marketed?

Answer: The fish is mainly caught for the local markets or merchandised to national and neighbouring countries like Thailand and Vietnam, but not much on international level.


Question: Is Tonle Sap Lake a drinking water resource?

Answer: Tonle Sap is not only a drinking water resource, but very important for fishing and farming.


Question: Is the local population aware of problems at Tonle Sap Lake?

Answer: Only few of the local residents are aware of the problems at Tonle Sap Lake.


Question: What are possible solutions for the challenges at Tonle Sap Lake?

Answer: Possible solutions for the challenges at Tonle Sap Lake are:

  • Strengthen the cooperation between Fisheries Administration, marine police and border police to enhance and enforce action.
  • Conduct public forums and national roundtable discussions on illegal fishing issues, so fishermen could raise their concerns and convey their messages on pressing issues to relevant authorities and experts for taking action.
  • Strengthen relationships, both formally and informally, between experts and authorities, enhance cooperation between experts and authorities and involve citizens.
  • Enforce the compliance of the contribution rules and integrated community plans to Community Investment Plans. Training on community mobilization to mobilize community fund and strengthen community business. Moreover, follow up on the adoption of the Sub-Decree on Community Fishery Management, focusing on community fisheries enabling them to benefit from their fishery resources.
  • Convince governments and investors to stop the construction of dams in the Mekong River Basin.
  • Promote people’s awareness on natural resource management and its advantages, fishery laws, gender equality and climate changes adaptation.
  • Establish new income generation and eco-tourism opportunities local for communities.
  • Promote value chain of fish products and marketing.


Question: Which is the role and what are main activities of FACT? Who are other important actors concerning the protection of Tonle Sap?

Answer: The role and main activities of FACT are to strengthen and work as coalition of NGOs and Cambodian Fishers, researcher, disseminate information and facilitate dialogue between relevant stakeholders in order to empower fishermen - both men and women - to become a strong social force in supporting sustainable conservation and development of fisheries resources at Tonle Sap. FACT always keeps good cooperation and collaboration with all relevant stakeholders on grass root - national and international - level. Important actors concerning the protection of Tonle Sap are: The Coalition of Cambodian Fishers and NGOs networks on national and international level such as the River Committee of Cambodia, Save the Mekong, and the SEAFish for Justice Network.


Question: What do you expect from the nomination/proclamation of Tonle Sap Lake as a Threatened Lake of the Year 2016?

Answer: We expect from the nomination of Tonle Sap Lake as “Threatened Lake of the Year 2016” the enacting of extended fishery laws, the approval of the revised Sub-decree on CFi-management, and the release of an environmental code including law enforcement and generally a better cooperation with all stakeholders. We also expect that conservation areas are strengthened, expanded and better managed and protected. Rights and voices of local fishers will be increase to protect and manage the fishery resources in a sustainable way.


Further information on World Wetlands Day,

2 February 2016

Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity

Wetlands and Sustainable Livelihoods

Wetlands for our Future: Sustainable Livelihoods

 Savath Om
 Fisherman with net
 Floating house at Tonle SapLake
 The Tonle Sap Lake as waterway
 Transport of wood at the Tonle Sap Lake
 People at the Tonle Sap Lake
 Fishermen at the Tonle Sap Lake
 Village on and at the Tonle Sap Lake
 Cage of an aquaculture
 Environmental education in Prek Toal
 The Tonle Sap Lake as important traffic artery..
 Fish processing of the freshly caught fish at Tonle Sap Lake
 Fisherman on the Tonle Sap Lake



Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT)
Savath Om (Executive Director of FACT)

# 57z, St 430, Sangkat Phsar Doeum Thkov

Khan Chamkarmon, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Mobile Phone: (855)23 992 044/012 or 858 420/016 855 190




Global Nature Fund (GNF)

Udo Gattenlöhner

Fritz-Reichle-Ring 4

78315 Radolfzell, Germany

Tel.: +49 - (0) 77 32 - 99 95 - 80

Fax: +49 - (0) 77 32 - 99 95 - 88