VOA Khmer: You have been reporting on Cambodia as a journalist [and then] you primarily focused on politics and foreign affairs. Why did you become interested in the Tonle Sap Lake and [Mekong] River issues, and what that led you to write a book about it?
Seiff: I first became interested in this, I think, in 2016. There was a terrible drought in Cambodia at that time and there were even forest fires around the lake. So, I went up to the lake with photographer Nicholas Axelrod… We spent about a week there, talking to all of these fishing families along the lake. It was really interesting because it was clear that the situation wasn’t just because of the drought and because of the forest fires. But that people were seeing really low [fish] catches and that this seemed to be worsening a lot in recent years. At that time, local media was reporting on this because of the hydropower dams, climate change and overfishing. And so I became quite interested in that whole situation…
But then, I was also interested in the historical situation at the lake. What was great about those interviews, as people talked about their memories of 10 or 20 years ago, [it became clear] how abundant the fish was then and how quickly that had changed. And then I was also looking at historical accounts from French colonialism, and even Zhou Daguan, the Chinese emissary in the 1200s. I loved those because they were describing the same lake, but it was just so abundant in fish and it was so overwhelming. Between those two things, I got interested in the bigger situation facing the Tonle Sap and I thought maybe this could be interesting to write a book about.