The government on April 27 issued a new sub-decree reversing its ban imposed in February on all fishing in the Mekong dolphin conservation zone.

The new sub-decree annuls the one issued on February 27 and reintroduces the conditions detailed in the one signed in September 2012.

Prime Minister Hun Sen explained in the new sub-decree that the February ban had not prevented the deaths of any dolphins and had actually affected the livelihoods of thousands of families.

Under the conditions of the 2012 sub-decree, the use of large mesh pattern fishing nets is banned, as they have been proven to be deadly to the Mekong dolphins, which are registered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as critically endangered.

“To maintain the safety of the dolphins while avoiding harming the interests of thousands of families, we repealed the most recent sub-decree in favour of an older one. What is crucial to the survival of the dolphins is that restrict the use of large mesh pattern nets and all electrocution devices,” he said while addressing the April 27 opening of the new school year at the Royal School of Administration.

Since January this year up until April 27, Cambodia had recorded three newborn dolphins and two deaths. Last year, there were 11 deaths, nearly all of them caused by dolphins becoming entangled in large patterned nets.

“I am concerned that some law enforcement officers are not performing as well as they could when it came to eliminating the use of illegal nets in the conservation zone,” said Hun Sen.

“The issue does not concern all nets, as smaller mesh patterns cannot trap the dolphins,” he added.

He urged the authorities in Stung Treng and Kratie provinces, along with relevant institutions, to continue to educate the public on the importance of protecting the dolphins, considered one of the Kingdom’s great natural treasures.

Following the announcement of the latest sub-decree, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries issued a press release stating that family-level fishing may resume.

The ministry acknowledged that the earlier ban on all fishing activities had presented challenges to many of the families living along the Mekong river, but reiterated that a total ban was still in effect on the use of large mesh pattern fishing nets.

“The ministry will work closely with local authorities and its dolphin conservation partners to educate the local population on the importance of protecting the dolphins,” added the release.

According to the ministry, it is estimated that there are currently around 90 dolphins living in the stretch of the Mekong between Kratie and Stung Treng provinces.