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Irrawaddy dolphin numbers rise

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
The Irrawaddy dolphin population has increased, according to the WWF. Facebook

The World Wildlife Fund said that the Irrawaddy dolphin population increased by ten percent in 2017 when compared to data obtained in 2015, but the animal advocate remains concerned about threats that continue in the habitat of the dolphins.

Phay Somany, deputy director of the Fisheries Administration’s conservation department who works with the WWF, said yesterday during a press conference that according to a new study analysing population data in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces, the population of the dolphins increased to 92 in 2017, a ten percent increase when compared to 2015.

“The death rate for the dolphin will be decreased further in the future as we provide more effective conservation,” said Mr Somany.

Seng Teak, WWF country director, attributed the increase of the Irrawaddy dolphin population in the last three years to an increase in law enforcement and conservation efforts.

He said that food stocks have been replenished, allowing for favourable dolphin reproduction conditions.

However, Mr Teak added that there are still challenges being faced by the dolphins due to ongoing illegal fishing methods.

The dolphins are a tourist attraction. KT/Chor Sokunthea

These methods include advantageous fishing nets, the use of electricity to incapacitate fish, poison and explosives, he noted.

“Another challenge is at the Lao border, there are so many offences, especially fishing offences in the dolphin habitat,” he said. “Another issue is the hydropower dam construction, which is probably the most imperative issue because it impacts ocean life.”

Mr Teak said the ultimate goal is to restore the dolphin habitat in Cambodia to what it was ten decades ago when there were about 3,000 dolphins. This year alone, four dolphins were born while two also perished.

Eng Chea San, director-general of the Fisheries Administration, said that the increase of Irrawaddy dolphins is a positive sign for the conservation community and will help attract tourists.

“We will continue to strive further than ever before to improve the work and urge the participation of local fishing communities to help protect the dolphins,” he said.

According to a report by the Fisheries Administration, from 2015 to 2017 authorities tackled many cases of illegal fishing that could have a negative affect on the dolphin population, including the seizure of 360,000 metres of netting, 20,000 metres of fishing rods, 58 cases of shock equipment and four cases of explosives. The authorities also arrested 31 people, 26 of which were sent to court.

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