Tag Archives: Cambodia

Cambodia’s first large-scale marine protected area declared

I’m just back from the Red Sea buzzing from the excitement of running a pilot new underwater photography course, but even more overjoyed to hear news from colleagues in Cambodia.


Cambodian local community crab fisherman

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Cambodia has just approved Cambodia’s first Marine Fisheries Management Area (MFMA) in the waters of the Koh Rong Archipelago.  Situated approximately 20 km off the coast of Sihanoukville and home to coral reef, seagrass and mangrove habitats, it supports many charismatic species including sea turtles and seahorses as well as three Community Fisheries located across Daem Thkov, Prek Svay, Koh Touch and M’Pai Bai villages.


Cambodian local community squid fisherman

The Fisheries Administration and conservation organisations have been working tirelessly for more than five years within the archipelago to consult with local stakeholders and communities and gather baseline data about the area’s biodiversity to support the designation of the site.
Fauna & Flora International and other organisations including Song Saa Foundation and Save Cambodian Marine Life have also played an important part in protecting the site and supporting the designation of the MFMA.

Although I can claim no direct role in this, I was delighted to support Fauna & Flora International and to work with both the Song Saa Foundation and Save Cambodian Marine Life. The images from that project continue to support the initiative and, as with all these ventures, there is still so much to do.

But for now, I offer huge congratulations to those hard working scientists, project managers, government officials and local fisheries community staff who made this happen, against difficult odds.


The enigmatic seahorse


For my fellow underwater photographers who care about the environments that they dive in, this is another example of how images can count in the conservation of our oceans, lakes and rivers.

Best wishes, dear friends


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Volunteering for Adventures…

_2293564-2Psychologists argue that people who volunteer their time or other resources are generally far happier in life than those who do not. It’s a chance to give something back. And to feel good about it.

I try to set aside a few weeks every year for good causes. It means that I earn less, but in reality we all become far richer through these experiences. This year I agreed to work with Fauna and Flora International, an organisation that is supporting an important initiative by the Cambodian government to create a Marine Protected Area in the Koh Rong archipelago. The organisation wanted a portfolio of images above and below water to communicate what was at stake.


Volunteering does not necessarily mean that you pay for the privilege too! In this case, the organisation funded my logistic and field costs. My concession was to not over-burden a hard working charity, so I lived at modest cost within the local economy and waived my normal photography fees. To offset loss of earnings, the organisation happily accepted a non-exclusivity clause and I hope to recover a modest amount through articles and talks. For the most part, the deal involved living in remote fishing villages with no running water or flushing loos and to use fairly austere sleeping quarters. This just meant living properly with the locals.  A problem? Certainly not; it just adds to the sense of adventure and it’s amazing how soon you forget all those silly luxuries that we don’t really need._DSC4712

I’m writing an article about this for DIVER magazine, so will not tell all the stories here. But with three weeks of solo diving in some quite novel settings that included jumping off commercial fishing boats, it had more than its fair share of excitement. I came back quite battered physically, coming as close as I ever have to breaking a limb. And I even ended up in hospital just after I got back to UK, having collapsed with a nasty lung infection.

But the rewards were huge.  I met some wonderful people during my time in country. Young and old. Most of them Cambodian. But some other nationalities too trying to help the country on its way, or to carve out new businesses. Nearly all of them completely positive in their outlook.



There’s something profoundly rewarding about volunteering. I think it gives us better perspective about how fortunate we really are in life.  And a chance to help others who might not be.

We should all do more of it.

Best wishes, dear friends.  Paul

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