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Fishing nets killed rare river dolphin

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A rare Irrawaddy dolphin, one of less than 100 believed to exist, was found dead after becoming tangled in an illegal fishing net in Kratie province. KRATIE TOURISM DEPARTMENT

Fishing nets killed rare river dolphin

Kratie’s provincial Department of Tourism on Tuesday said an illegal fishing net caused the death of an endangered Irrawaddy dolphin in the province’s Sambok village.

Rangers spotted the 110kg carcass of a female floating in the sea around 2.27m from Anlong Preah Sang.

“We all are saddened by the loss of the dolphin. A 30m-long fishing net was found tangled with its tail and its carcass was bloated with a foul stench emitting from it,” the provincial Tourism Department said on social media.

The freshwater dolphins are regarded as sacred to the people living along the stretch of the Mekong between Cambodia and Laos, but have become increasingly threatened by illegal fishing practices, according to World Wildlife Fund for Nature Cambodia (WWF-Cambodia) country director Seng Teak.

“Dolphin researchers examined the [carcass] of the dolphin and determined that it was caught in an illegal fishing net within the [Anlong Kampi] protected area,” Teak told The Post. “The dead dolphin was fully grown and had already reached reproductive age.”

Teak said that illegal fishing practices along the Mekong River in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces were the main reason behind the unusually high number of Irrawaddy dolphin deaths in the area and, as a result, the Kingdom’s dwindling river dolphin population.

“In 2018, we recorded 10 newborn dolphins and this year we have recorded 11. This means there were only 21 newborn dolphins over the past two years, while 10 have died since 2018,” he said.

There are currently between 78 and 92 Irrawaddy dolphins estimated to be left in the Mekong River, Teak said.

Last year, WWF-Cambodia reported that the Irrawaddy dolphin population had experienced an increase for the first time since official figures began being monitored in 1997.

WWF-Cambodia and relevant authorities are to conduct another dolphin census next year to determine the exact number left before launching a conservation campaign, Teak said.

“To preserve the remaining dolphins, please halt illegal fishing activities, especially in dolphin preservation areas along the Mekong River,” Teak said.

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