Cambodian PM orders conservation zones for endangered dolphins

The Prime Minister said the dolphin zones must be totally protected and added that the rare animals are very attractive to national and international tourists
Mekong River
Mekong RiverIANS

PHNOM PENH: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered the establishment of safe zones on the Mekong River to protect critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins after three of them were killed by longline fishing hooks within a week last month.

Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a river bridge, Hun Sen on Monday ordered authorities to deploy floating markers around designated conservation zones, saying that fishing must be completely prohibited from those marked zones, reports Xinhua news agency.

"The Mekong River, which is the habitat of nearly-extinct dolphins and fish species, must be well protected in order to ensure that these dolphins will not die from entanglement in gillnets," he said.

The Prime Minister said the dolphin zones must be totally protected and added that the rare animals are very attractive to national and international tourists.

The Irrawaddy dolphins have been listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species since 2004.

In Cambodia, the mammals live along a 180-km main channel of the Mekong River in the northeastern Kratie and Stung Treng provinces.

The Fisheries Administration and World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-Cambodia estimated that there were about 92 Irrawaddy dolphins in total living in the Southeast Asian nation in 2017.

WWF issued a statement, voicing its support for the prime minister's order to protect dolphin conservation areas along the Mekong River.

"WWF applauds Samdech Techo Prime Minister's recommendations on the establishment of the permanent core conservation zones and seasonal core conservation areas within a 180-km stretch of Cambodia's Mekong River, where all kinds of fishing activities are prohibited," Seng Teak, WWF-Cambodia country director, said.

He said WWF stands ready to collaborate with relevant authorities including the Dolphins Commission, Fisheries Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and provincial administrations of Kratie and Stung Treng provinces, to support the effective management of this critically endangered species.

According to the WWF, 11 dolphins died in 2022, bringing the overall toll to 29 in the last three years.

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