The Fisheries Administration (FiA) and World Wide Fund for Nature Cambodia (WWF-Cambodia) are beefing up their efforts to protect the remaining Irrawaddy dolphins in Kratie province following the death of another dolphin last week.

The FiA and WWF-Cambodia on May 14 issued a statement saying they were saddened by the loss of the adult male in Kratie. The dolphin, which weighed 93kg and was 215cm long, was found dead two days prior, about 36km downstream of the Kampi pool.

According to their statement, this was the third adult of the species that had died this year.

Their research team had examined the carcass and found a wound on its tail and a long scratch below its dorsal fin.

“The team suggested that the dolphin died about two days ago, but was not able to conclude whether the death was caused by a gill net, as no marks consistent with that kind of cause of death were discovered.

“The death of a healthy adult dolphin is especially sad given their currently small population, as the death will directly affect the breeding potential of the Mekong dolphins. The carcass was transferred to the WWF Office in Kratie province, where continued investigations will take place to determine the exact cause of death,” the statement said.

The Irrawaddy dolphin is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

A 2020 population census estimated that only 89 dolphins were still swimming in a 180km stretch of the Mekong River in Cambodia.

The FiA and WWF-Cambodia said that despite a government ban on the use of gillnets in the Mekong habitat – and strict enforcement of the ban – entanglement in fishing nets continues to be the leading cause of death in the adult dolphin population.

“It is one of the reasons why senior officials from the national government of Fisheries Administration and WWF staff conducted a review of law enforcement strategy earlier this week. Through a series of meetings with provincial fishery officials and river guards in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces, some immediate measures had been adopted,” said the statement.

Fisheries management would be strengthened and patrols would be increased – during the day and at night – in order to conserve the remaining dolphins and protect the River’s mega fish species.