Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Dolphin deaths slowing



Dolphin deaths slowing

The endangered Irrawaddy dolphin is reportedly stabilising after the sighting of ten new calves in the past year. Photo supplied
The endangered Irrawaddy dolphin is reportedly stabilising after the sighting of ten new calves in the past year. Photo supplied

Dolphin deaths slowing

The critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphin’s population in the Mekong is “stabilising”, the World Wildlife Fund said yesterday.

With the sighting of 10 new dolphin calves and six reported deaths in the past year, 2016 saw a 30 percent drop in the mortality rate compared to 2015, according to the statement, though the current population estimate of 80 remains far below the 200 estimated in 1997.

The group currently identifies hydropower dam construction, decreasing water levels and illegal fishing practices as major threats to the species. According to the group’s spokesman, Sambo Chheng, “most illegal fishing happens during the dry season, because dolphins and fish [are concentrated] in deep pools” along the Mekong when water levels reach their annual lows.

Community fishing patrols, he added, will be implemented in coordination with the Fisheries Administration starting this year to stave off illegal fishing. This strategy is similar to the use of patrols in the waters around the Koh Rong archipelago introduced earlier this year.

Earlier this month, Stung Treng-based environmentalists Chum Hout and Chum Hour noted that dolphins have become scarce near the construction of the Don Sahong dam. Today, they said it’s been two months since they’ve sighted any.

Chhum Kanika, an independent environmentalist based in the region says while there were once “six or seven” dolphins in the Chheu Teal pool near the dam, as of last month, she hasn’t seen any there.

“It’s all about the Don Sahong [construction]; the dolphins run away,” she said.

Chheng says the WWF has observed at least three individuals in the Koh Kabas pool 5 kilometres further downstream, a subpopulation he says the WWF considers to be “functionally extinct”.

An independent scientific study commissioned by the WWF in 2009 further identifies mercury and pesticide contamination as threats to the population. It also warns that the dolphin gene pool is now so small that inbreeding will render the population too weak to survive. The report’s assessment that the species was on the verge of extinction at the time drew the ire of the government, which went as far as to threaten the organisation with legal action.

Despite the study’s recommendation for further research, no comparable scientific surveys on dolphin mortality have been carried out since, only population surveys. Yesterday, WWF spokesman Chheng disavowed the 2009 report as “not official”, and denied the validity of its findings.

Several senior officials with the Fisheries Administration, which works with WWF in the preservation of the species, either declined to comment or could not be reached.

MOST VIEWED

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • Cambodia to make auto-rickshaws

    Locally-assembled electric auto-rickshaws could hit the Cambodian market as soon as early in May after the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) gave the greenlight to an investment project at the weekend. According to a CDC press release, it will issue a final registration