Cambodia Marine Conservation Project - December 2011
December was a month full of festivities and hard work. Strong winds this month hampered the work we were able to do in relation to the seahorse research but our reef surveys progressed as usual. Winds also affected the village and resulted in us pitching in to help the village get back on its feet.
Due to the winds, diving on the Corral (the seahorse breeding grounds) was limited. However it gave the volunteers a good chance to be trained on land in seahorse identification and survey methodology. Training and practice surveys took place when the weather allowed. Hopefully now that everyone is trained up we will be very productive when the winds die down in the New Year.
This month we focused on looking at the specific fish families in the area. Long term staff and volunteers have noticed an increase in size and abundance of some families and individual species. Volunteers took part in learning all the fish families in the area. They were also trained in methodology and estimating size underwater which is quite a skill. 20 surveys took place over 7 different sites. This is the first month that we have completed this type of survey so it will be interesting to compare results in the year ahead.
When there are winds like we saw this month lots of fishing boats use our bay for shelter this meant that there was an increase in rubbish on the reefs. Fishermen throw old and damaged nets overboard not to mention general rubbish. Several lost and damaged traps washed onto the reefs with the strong currents. Volunteers collected everything from nets and traps to beer cans and playing cards.
Excitingly we were able to add two new fish species to the Cambodian species list. These are not newly discovered species but species that have never been recorded as being found in Cambodia. We have a large data base of photos taken in the area and we are slowly working through identifying them and comparing them to recognised species in Cambodia. The two new species added this month were the Banded Goby (Amblygobius phalaena) and the Freckled Goby (Amblygobius stethophthalmus).
Recreational Mooring Buoys
Last month we dropped the very first recreational mooring buoy in Cambodia on a site we call Vietnamese Bay. This month saw us deploy 2 more on Corner Bar and Backdoor. This is a great achievement for both the project and the village.
The English school has really taken off this month as we have had a volunteer devote her time entirely to teaching the children of the community English. She has established 4 classes. First thing in the morning she works with the younger kids around 8-11 year olds and their younger siblings. The next group is made up of 12-14 year olds. In the afternoon she works with the older kids (15-20yrs) followed by a class for adults. The adult class is just new and is very basic. It is amazing to see the adults wanting to learn a new language. The curriculum has covered everything from general vocabulary, English conversation, comprehension, tenses and adjectives to writing and pronunciation.
We also had two dentists come to the project to volunteer for a short time they prepared a short presentation for the village children to help prevent some of the common dental issues. In the village the children consume a lot of sugary treats including sweets, sugared drinks as well as chewing on sugar cane.
The presentation was aimed at educating the children to eat these treats in moderation and getting in the habit of maintaining good dental hygiene. This presentation will be given again several times over the coming year so that its importance is emphasised and not forgotten.
Beach and Village Clean Up
Every day we were busy cleaning up after rubbish had been blown around and washed up from the mainland. The far end of the village fared much worse and a lot of our time was down that end of the village cleaning the street and around the houses.
Christmas weekend was quite the event. Strong winds and high tides meant that the ocean came right up to the second row of houses. One house in the village suffered more than others its bark walls were blown clean off. The house belonged to staff members from the project luckily they had moved out a while ago and now live on the project site. Boxing Day was spent cleaning up and hauling sand back into the village to help restore one of the local bars.
The next project we are looking into starting is making use of the already existing ponds behind the village. We are looking to turn them into a fresh water fish farm. This month we took to cleaning just one pond it was an incredibly muddy and dirty process. We are hoping that turning these into functioning ponds, one it will help the community and two may lower mosquito populations as the fish will keep mosquito larvae in check.
Volunteers chose to spend a 'family' Christmas on the island. Apart from waking up Christmas morning not to find a stocking full of presents but to find fallen trees, houses with no walls and all the sand washed from the village (!) a good weekend was had by all.
New Years was very big on the mainland due to Sihanoukville winning a Southeast Asia's beautiful beaches award. The government put on a big concert, fireworks and other sorts of entertainment. Most volunteers headed to the mainland for a lively New Years Eve and some went all the way to Phnom Penh to welcome in 2012.
So as we say goodbye to the year that was 2011, I would like to thank all the staff and volunteers who made the year what it was and we look forward to another year and all that will be achieved in 2012.
Wishing you all a Happy Christmas and a successful and productive new year from everyone on Koh Rong Samloem
Conservation Project Coordinator - Cambodia