Irrawaddy Dolphin Killed in Mekong River by Illegal Fishing

An Irrawaddy dolphin was found dead Wednesday morning tied up in a fishing net and floating in the Mekong River in Kratie province, officials said.

Khieu Kin, chief of Kratie’s provincial fishery administration, said that the 2.03-meter long, 105-kg female dolphin had likely be­come entangled in the net near Kampi village, a dolphin sanctuary popular with tourists, before floating downstream into a stretch of the Mekong River in Kratie City’s Rokar Kandal commune.

“We have handed the carcass over to the dolphin conservation team in Kratie for a follow-up investigation and to take tissue samples,” Mr. Kin said, adding that a gillnet was tied around the dolphin’s tail fin.

The large, meshed gillnets are a particular threat to dolphins be­cause they are left to drift in the river overnight meaning large fish can become entangled if they swim into the nets.

In an effort to save the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphin, the government issued a sub-decree in September banning the use of gillnets along the 180-km section of river between Kratie city and the Lao border, where the dolphins are commonly found.

“This is the first time this year that a dolphin on our conservation has been found dead,” said You Leyveng, chief river guard of Thma Kre II river post in Sambor district, one of 15 posts in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces manned by 77 river guards, who monitor local fishing communities in an effort to protect the area’s re­maining freshwater dolphins.

“We have had success preventing illegal fishing with large nets and electricity currents,” Mr. Leyveng said, referring to the practice of illegal fishing by sending an electrical current into the river.

“In 2012, in this area four dolphins died as a result of these methods of fishing, compared to 12 in 2011,” he said.

According to WWF Cambodia, there are between 78 and 91 Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong River, though Touch Seang Tana, chairman of the government’s Commission for the Mekong River Dolphin Conservation and Eco-tourism Development, has previously said that 180 dolphins remain. Mr. Seang Tana could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

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