Stung Treng provincial Fisheries Administration officials warn that the Irrawady dolphins in the Ochheuteal dolphin pleasance in Borei O’Svay Sen Chey district’s Preah Rumkel commune are now faced with extinction as there is only one dolphin left remaining of the pod that was living there until recently.

The officials called on all relevant parties to come up with a rehabilitation plan to increase the number of dolphins in the area.

“Scientists have declared that the subspecies of Irawaddy dolphin in the Ochheuteal dolphin pleasance are on the verge of extinction because they are unrelated to the other dolphins downstream. They do not move up and down [the river] like the dolphins in the Tbong Khla Nature Reserve, located in Stung Treng and Kratie provinces,” acting head of the provincial Fisheries Administration Srey Sam Vichet said.

Sam Vichet made the remarks at a roundtable discussion on the Mekong River Irrawady Dolphin Campaign organised by the World Wildlife Fund in Cambodia (WWF Cambodia) and held online on October 31.

He said the factors that caused the decline of the dolphin population in this area were possibly climate change, changes in the water level of the Mekong River due to developments, illegal fishing, limited participation from stakeholders and limited international cooperation on the Cambodia-Laos border.

He suggested that the provincial administration take urgent measures and enlist the help of the military forces in the province to strengthen law enforcement and cooperate with other partner organisations such as the WWF Cambodia to study the possibility of reviving the dolphin population in Ochheuteal dolphin pleasance.

Sam Vichet said the provincial administration will strengthen cooperation in the border area between the Laotian and Cambodian authorities at the village, commune and district levels because the local authorities had an easier time communicating with each other which was key because of the large numbers of Lao fishermen in the area.

“We encourage people to guard the river dolphin because we have only seven guards in the Ochheuteal dolphin pleasance. Without the participation of the local people and stakeholders, it is not possible to succeed in protecting and conserving these dolphins. We need to work together with all stakeholders to plan for the rehabilitation of our dolphin population and for breeding fish in the area,” he said.

Kung Chanthy, chief of the community fishery network in Borei O’Svay Sen Chey district, said during the discussion that the cause of the dolphin’s extinction was primarily the construction of large dams on the Mekong River and the loss of habitat.

“Now there is only one dolphin left in Ochheuteal dolphin pleasance. In the future it too will disappear. It’s a sad thing for our community to lose these resources that belonged to our ancestors. I was born in this district and I’ve seen hundreds of dolphins. They swam together in long lines and played in the water. And now in the 21st century our dolphins are almost down to zero,” he said.