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Authorities confiscate nets from local fishermen in Kratie province’s Sambor district
Authorities confiscate nets from local fishermen in Kratie province’s Sambor district over the weekend after they were being used to fish in a protected area. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Fishing nets destroyed in Irrawaddy dolphin habitat

Over 10,000 square metres of fishing nets discovered in a protected fishing area of Kratie’s Sambor district were seized and burned over the weekend in an effort to crack down on illegal fishing and protect the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin.

As many as 17 joint forces – including Fishery Administration officials, local authorities, river rangers, soldiers and community members – worked together to untangle the huge expanse of nets on Friday and Saturday in the Sandan and Sambor communes of Sambor district.

As a result, 132 nets making up 10,560 metres, a motor and an 8-metre fishing boat were confiscated, according to Mok Ponlork, the chief of the Mekong River Irrawaddy Dolphin Conservation Guard and the provincial deputy chief of the Fisheries Administration.

“The fishing nets were deployed in the core area, which is a protected area where Irrawady dolphins [are found],” he said. “After realising this, our authorities spent one night and one day collecting all the nets.”

He added that nobody was apprehended for illegal fishing, but added that the authorities believed there were between 10 and 20 suspects involved since the men escaped in roughly 10 boats.

“The suspects are fishing in groups – they drop [the nets] at the same time,” he said. “It is bad for the Irrawaddy dolphin and for fish . . . [but] fortunately, they did not catch any dolphins or [pregnant] fish yet.”

Chhit Sam Ath, director of WWF Cambodia, said yesterday that five Irrawady dolphins have been found dead this year, though conservation officials discovered two newborns as well.

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