The Cambodia’s Dai Fishery

The photo shows Dai fishery activity in the Tonle Sap River. Photo: Chhut Chhana
  • Chhut Chheana / USAID Wonders of the Mekong
  • March 9, 2021 8:50 AM

The stationary trawl fishery, known in Cambodia as the Dai fishery, was established almost 150 years ago. The fishery operates north of Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, located in the lower section of the Tonle Sap River that spans more than 35 km.

The fishery operates each year from early October to the beginning of March, when the floodwaters from the previous wet season are receding back to the Mekong Reiver. The Dai targets multiple species, including the Trey riel, Siamese mud carp (Gymnostomus spp.), as they migrate from the Tonle Sap Lake system to the Mekong River.

The fish caught by Dai fishers are generally used to make pra hok, a salted, fermented, and smoked fish. Traditionally, when making Prahok, Cambodian people would prepare the Trey riel by hand, cutting off the fish heads one by one.

The fish were then put into baskets and taken down to the riverbank, where wooden planks were built to carry out the fish cleaning process. To remove the scales and oil, the people would use their feet, stepping directly on the fish in the baskets.

The fish were then rinsed in the river before moving on in the preparation process. Today, because of modern technology, the process of making prahok is much more efficient. The fish are put through a series of machines.

The main machine works much like a fruit blender, taking off the head, scales, and oil. Another machine rinses and cleans the fish, preparing them for salting.

In this video, we explore the entire fascinating process of making Prahok. We encourage you to watch and learn more about the traditional Cambodian Dai fishing practice.

Follow Wonders of the Mekong to learn more about the unique Tonle Sap Lake and Mekong ecosystem, and please share this post to share the wonders of the historical practices of the stationary trawl Dai fishery.

Watch the video

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