Investigating the ecological and economic impacts of illegal trawling in Cambodia

When: 28 June – 7 August 2016

Where: Koh Seh, Kep Achipelago, Cambodia

What: A multidisciplinary expedition to investigate the economic and ecological impact of trawling on the health of the marine sea-grass beds in Cambodia.

Who: Students from the University of Exeter and Falmouth University FXpedition Society.

Status: Completed 


FXCambodia 2016 seeks to research the impacts of illegal trawling on seagrass habitats. This habitat supports populations of Blue Swimmer Crabs which have significant economic value to local fishing communities. This income is under threat as the crab’s habitat, seagrass, is damaged by trawling.

The team will perform habitat surveys comparing areas regularly trawled and areas trawled less frequently. Our findings will be presented for two key audiences; a scientific report aimed at academics and a video produced in both English and Khmer to increase community engagement.

FXCambodia - Deploying SMB's for research

Deploying SMB’s for research


Our project is built upon the three previous successful expeditions, Expedition Samloem 2013, Project Kep 2014 & FXCambodia 2015. From liaising with previous expeditions and Marine Conservation Cambodia we have been made aware that one of the biggest threat to Cambodia’s biodiversity is trawling. We subsequently chose to focus our expedition on the marine environment in contrast to the past terrestrial expeditions. The relations acquired from these past FXpeditions will provide strong foundations allowing us to work closely with the local people of Cambodia with their interests firmly embedded within the core of our project. We hope to further develop contacts to benefit future FXpeditions and ensure continued successful collaborations.

Our research will compliment established projects under Marine Conservation Cambodia aiding to a movement of marine conservation, as it stands the protection of Cambodia’s natural systems and resources is not receiving the investment required (ICEM, 2003). We may also have the opportunity to pass data on to the Cambodian Department of Fisheries Conservation which would provide a direct link between research efforts and potential action. To complement this our ambitious public media campaign intends to raise awareness on sustainable fishing techniques.


Koh Seh, Cambodia – 10° 21′ 24.2712” N 104° 19′ 13.206” E



i) Contribute to a drive towards marine conservation with a plan to collaborate with Marine Conservation Cambodia and the Royal University of Agriculture to contribute towards increasing the knowledge on the effects of illegal fishing methods to local species of economic value.

ii) To inform and spread awareness of the effects of bottom trawling to key benthic habitats to both lay members of the public and those with a scientific background or interest in the field.

iii) Provide research that supports the protection efforts and sustainable fishing techniques within the Kep community.


i) Recording the biogeographical effects of trawling on the substrate and Sea-grass meadows in Kep Archipelago.

ii) Producing and releasing a short documentary video to serve as an engaging educational resource relating to our report’s findings. Through our collaboration with Khmer students it will be accessible in both English and Khmer, utilising subtitles or dubbing where appropriate.

iii) Our research will complement the research currently being conducted by MCC and be used by themselves to support proposed protection policies. The report will be submitted for publication to the Cambodian Department of fisheries Conservation.

FXCambodia - Trawling Boat (Image credit: Henry Traynor)

Trawling Boat (Image credit: Henry Traynor)


The Kep Archipelago of Cambodia is a productive marine environment, supporting a vast variety of species, such as seahorses, bamboo sharks, dolphins and endangered dugongs, to name a few, some of which are unique to the area. Unfortunately, this vital habitat is majorly suffering from illegal trawling and overfishing, which is detrimental to its biodiversity, risking population collapse, and also destroying the entire area’s fishing industry because of its current unsustainable nature. This is due to high levels of underdevelopment and poverty in the area, where illegal fishing is sought for sufficient income.

The ecological roles of seagrasses are very important. Seagrass provides the filtration of nutrients, contaminants and sediments, which closely links the habitat to other communities such as coral reefs and mangroves. Moreover, they provide habitats for a wide variety of marine organisms linking them closely to the populations of economically important species such as the blue swimmer crab in Kep.

To date there is limited study on the sea grasses in Kep, and the effect of illegal fishing methods such as trawling is relatively unknown. Therefore we propose to increase the areas knowledge on the biogeographical effects of trawling to seagrass meadows by comparing the health in high versus low levels of trawling sites.


Meet the Expedition Team

Henry Wingfield - Expedition Leader
BSc Environmental Science, University Of Exeter.

I first discovered a passion for travel after a trip to South-Africa in 2011. I’ve since spent 5 months in Central America and 4 weeks in Sri Lanka – no coincidence that these are both great areas for surfing. I’ve pursued an interest in nature through my academic studies, currently a 2nd year environmental science student at the University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus. I’m stoked to combine these interests in Cambodia while contributing to conservation research. I feel pretty at home on a beach and was voted beach volleyball international player of the year 2014* so I hope to dominate the sport during my downtime on the island.

*disclaimer – this award might not exist…

Katya-Rose Zaki - Expedition and Scientific Coordinator
BSc Animal Behaviour, University of Exeter

I led the FXCambodia 2015 team last year and not surprisingly want to return to experience more of the conservation issues in Cambodia. The hard work of everyone last year and the beauty of the Cambodian’s islands and oceans drove me to want to ensure FxCambodia lived another year! There is urgent need for fishing regulation all over the world and scientific research into the destructive effects can help enforce this. Although this may only seem like a small step in the uphill battle of ocean conservation it is a necessary piece to the puzzle. Above all I’m looking forward to immersing myself into messy world of conservation again!

Oliver Graves - Director of Media
BA Film, Falmouth University

I’m a filmmaker interested in ways art and science can work together. I began running around with a camera making films as a kid and in 2013 I was an international finalist for the Empire Done in Sixty Seconds competition. Aside from that I’ve also worked as a runner and camera operator on a range of professional projects. Travel has been a big part of my life, and I’ve been lucky enough to experience plenty of wildlife in Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Borneo, always with camera in tow. Last year I spent a semester in Istanbul where I completed a short documentary about the Turkish general elections. So I’m looking forward to documenting both the scientific and humanitarian aspects of the expedition. Also I spent some time in Cambodia in 2013 when I was backpacking around South East Asia and I can’t wait to return!

Eleanor Wyatt - Sponsorship and Grants Officer
Msci Conservation Biology and Ecology, University of Exeter

I’m a 1st year studying Conservation Biology and Ecology. I’ve always had a passion for the environment which started with many nature walks as a child. I’m interested in the interactions of organisms within their environment and how vital it is to conserve and look after our planet to prevent any knock on disasters. I have experience budgeting for an inter-railing trip around Europe. Volunteering at The Hawk Conservancy gave me a background information to complete a research project into conservation of vultures in India. Finally I have participated in a biodiversity survey in Guyana and am extremely excited to now explore the oceans of Cambodia and see how the data we can collect will help in the future.

Bryony Freestone - Fundraising Officer
BA/BSc Geography, University of Exeter

I’ve always found the great outdoors fascinating, especially how the environment is exploited and what we can do to combat this. I’ve been lucky enough to go to Kenya and gain an insight into the world of elephant and rhino conservation, and climbed Mount Kenya to raise money and awareness for their conservation. My love of surfing has inspired my interest in the importance of protecting the oceans, and I can’t wait to discover more about this and understand its wider implications for people, in Cambodia this summer!

Toby Purvis: Health and Safety Officer
BSc Zoology, University of Exeter

I’m a 2nd year Zoology student at the University of Exeter. My interests lie in the understanding of interactions between human and environment and how that in turn affects biodiversity. Having grown up from a Zoological background (both parents Zoologists) an interest with the environment came naturally to me. This expedition is an excellent opportunity to increase and nurture that interest. Travel has yet to be a large part of life as this expedition will be the first time I’ve been outside Europe. However that is something that I want to change, with this trip being the catalyst. With aspirations of becoming a Scientist a chance to provide data that has the potential of making a difference in an area that has seen large biodiversity reductions is a hugely exciting prospect for me. South East Asia, I’m told, is a stunning part of the world so I can’t wait to experience it personally!

Expedition Advisors

Paul Ferber – Director of Marine Conservation Cambodia
Paul has worked closely with the two previous FXpedtions in Cambodia. He has provided the teams with a point of contact and the use of his site of Koh Seh as a base. He has various contacts that have been used successfully in the past and will be helping us obtain various permits and passes for the National Park. Our aim is to continue FxCambodia’s collaboration with Paul, where we will be using his expertise of the area and research to help plan the logistics of our expedition, while also collaborating closely in the field.
Delphine Dublin and Amick Haissoune
Head Researcher’s and project coordinators at Marine Conservation Cambodia
Samphal Seng – Vice Dean Royal University of Agriculture Fishery Department
Samphal is current Vice Dean of Royal University of Agriculture. He has 18 years of experience in Aquatic Science, Natural Resources Management and Business Management and is recently involved in many consulting projects such as Socio-Economic Development. Organization (SEDO).We plan to gain advice and support from the University by email contact with a view to also factor in a visit before starting our research in Cambodia. Samphal can also provide guidance with the collaboration of the Cambodian University students and ourselves.
FXCambodia 2016 - Henry Wingfield Free Diving

Henry Wingfield Free Diving


Marine Conservation Cambodia – The aim of MCC is to conserve and protect Cambodia’s marine environment and the livelihoods of the island communities that rely on its resources. It is based on Koh Rong Samloem and the Koh Rong islands and they are the longest running and most successful marine conservation project in Cambodia. We will be collaborating with MCC to collect data and MCC will advise the team on which sources to distribute findings to in Cambodia.
Royal University of Agriculture –RUA is the leading agricultural university in Cambodia and students from the university will join our team. This will benefit us as these students will have a good knowledge of the area and of the local flora and fauna. It will also benefit them as it will provide them with some great fieldwork experience.



FXCambodia 2016 - Expenditure


Total - £10,322 (click for breakdown)
Training – £215
International travel (flights) – £500*6 (£3000)
Subsistence (accommodation and food) – £5210
Visa’s – £312
In-country travel – £500
Field equipment – £100
Insurance – £210
Local Guides – £350
Fuel – £250
Medical / health & safety – £50
Post-fieldwork activities – £25
Preparation of project report – £25
Dissemination of findings – £75


FXCambodia 2016 - Income

Combination of Personal Contribution, Donations, Fundraising Events and Grants


Fxpedition Grant
Royal Geographic Society
Gilchrist Educational Trust
Cornish Divers



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