Who we are is a fairly simple question to answer. Marine Conservation Cambodia's volunteer and internship program came to be simply out of necessity. The rate in which the Cambodian waters and local fishing communities were being destroyed was unprecedented. It was not inconceivable that the fishing industry and livelihood of the fisherman would have vanished in 10 years. If this had happened it would have been more than a loss of income for these families. It would also have been the loss of a significant and fundamental part of their culture, potentially forever.
The practices used for fishing were getting ever more destructive as fish stocks plummeted and the demand for sea products increased. From dynamite fishing, cyanide fishing, electric fishing, to the massive trawling nets that destroy everything without discretion. All aspects of the sea were being decimated, the dynamite and cyanide destroying and poisoning the reefs, the electric fishing killing every fish, invertebrate, or living organism they pass over regardless of the sex, size, or species, and the massive trawling nets that uproot the sea grass, break the reefs and basically kill everything they come in contact with. It simply needed to be stopped.
The country of Cambodia has had a very rough and hard history making their transition into what the country is today a very difficult one. Many aspects regarding the environment were simply overlooked. This wasn’t because Cambodia did not care; they simply had other more important pressing priorities to deal with. Mainly the welfare of their people for starters because what good is protecting the environment if you don’t have a population to enjoy it?
The founders of Marine Conservation Cambodia saw the country needed help and decided to step in. At first it was a difficult process, as foreigners coming in trying to change things was not looked highly upon. Making sure that volunteers and interns understood about Cambodian culture and had an understanding of how to interact in a developing country was not an easy task. Also the fishing industry is big money in many Asian countries, so some important people would be facing a serious loss of income. Rumors spread that MCC was here to stop fishing all together and groups were formed to chase MCC out of the country. After years of hard work, playing the political game, and simply letting our actions speak for themselves, quite quickly the local communities realized we were here to help. As time went on the Cambodian government also realized our goal was not to end fishing, but to achieve a sustainable and also a responsible way of fishing whilst supporting local communities and help to increase Cambodia’s marine resources.
Marine Conservation Cambodia and the volunteers that have joined us along the way, have made a huge impact in protecting Cambodian waters but many of these destructive practices are still happening. Another threat to Cambodian waters is an influx of foreign fishing boats illegally entering Cambodian waters to fish, as some neighboring waters are almost completely fished out. The Cambodian government simply does not have the resources to stop this, Our work at Marine Conservation Cambodia and the work of our volunteers and interns continues and we are here to make that big difference that is so desperately needed.
After the successes in creating and protecting Cambodia’s First Large Marine fisheries management area around the Koh Rong Archipelago, We were invited by the Royal Government of Cambodia to begin our work again in Kep province. After the initial marine research reports were produced by our volunteers and interns, they were accepted by Kep's provincial government leading to the approval of Keps first MPA being created. This new MPA around the islands of Koh Angkrong, Koh Mak Prang and Koh Seh in Kep Province is already seeing the return of many species that had disappeared from the area. We are seeing reefs begin to grow again in a healthy way. Sea grass is re-growing offering important shelter to crabs and other marine organisms, and seahorses are also starting to make a slow comeback. Seeing this is the greatest reward MCC, and everyone of our volunteers and interns can receive. Millions of dollars would not even come close to the satisfaction MCC feels knowing what we are doing is truly making a difference for the beautiful country of Cambodia.
Have a look through our website and if volunteering or taking an academic internship with MCC is of interest to you do not hesitate to contact us. We will be more then happy to answer any question you have. One person started MCC, so it is simple proof one volunteer can make a difference!