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Early Morning on the Lake

In the summer of 2008, I photographed fishing communities on Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake as part of the Tufts Institute for Global Leadership’s Exposure-VII workshop. The lake is an essential source of both food and income for the surrounding area, but, as I soon learned, it is now threatened by population growth, upstream damming, pesticides, and overfishing. While the government has given the lakeside communities the rights to some 240,000 square miles of fishing grounds, which were previously controlled by commercial fisheries, problems remain. The community management of fisheries and ethnic divisions pose some of the greatest challenges. For example, in the houseboat village of Chong Khneas, a third of the six thousand residents are Vietnamese. But the vast majority of them are excluded from community fisheries meetings. Few Vietnamese will learn about sustainable fishing.

In this shot, taken at four in the morning, families gear up for a day’s work. The men will haul nets from the muddy waters, and the women and children will separate the fish by size.

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