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Illegal fishing still a threat to Irrawaddy dolphins

Som Kanika / Khmer Times Share:
REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Despite strict measures and awareness-raising campaigns dedicated to the protection and conservation of Irrawaddy dolphins, illegal fishing remains persistent on the Mekong River, casting a threat to the already-endangered freshwater species.

Mok Ponlok, deputy chief of Kratie Provincial Fisheries Administration, said yesterday the administration has, during the first half of this year, cracked down on 108 fisheries crimes involving Irrawaddy dolphins.

The offences cover the employment of illegal fishing methods, of which 86 cases reported the use of illegal drift nets, seven cases on snag fishing, 10 cases involving the use of illegal fishing gears and five cases on electrofishing.

So far this year, Ponlok said six Irrawaddy dolphin calves were born but two died. The number is relatively lower when compared with last year’s 13 newborns, six of which later died.

Kratie provincial governor Var Thorn in a press conference last month said the Irrawaddy dolphin population in the province is significantly low, with their number recorded at 80.

Due to the dramatically declining population of Irrawaddy dolphins, the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2017 changed the status of the species from “vulnerable” to “endangered,” with human activities identified as the primary reason behind the decline.

Lack of education was determined as a contributing factor to the prevalence of fisheries crimes, Kratie province’s Chetr Borei district police chief of joint staff Captain Pav Kimhort said previously.

To curb the continued threat to the Irrawaddy dolphins, a secretary of the Agriculture Ministry Has Sareth said authorities must enforce tighter restrictions banning the people from engaging in illegal fishing activities and enforcing the confiscation of illegal drift nets which can trap and kill the dolphins.

He said cooperation between the local communities and authorities will further ensure the conservation of the endangered species.

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