Support from local communities needed to protect endangered Mekong dolphins

October 23, 2012

Kampi, Kratie town, Cambodia  – Five Cambodian fishermen representing their communities will publicly express their support for a ban on gillnet use in a ceremony highlighting the importance of the Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphin.

The event organised by the Commission for Dolphin Conservation and Development of the Mekong River Dolphin Eco-tourism Zone, the Fisheries Administration and WWF is expected to attract government officials, NGO’s, monks and locals and will see Cambodian fishermen commit to the protection of the critically endangered dolphin, the ceremony will also celebrate the importance of the Mekong dolphin as a national treasure.

His Excellency Touch Seang Tana, Chairman of the Commission for Dolphin Conservation and Development of the Mekong River Dolphin Eco-Tourism Zone, says that the Government recognizes the urgent need to protect the remaining population from extinction.

“The dolphins in the Mekong are sacred to the people of Cambodia and are an important source of income for communities involved in dolphin-watching tourism. The Royal Government of Cambodia promotes poverty alleviation through conservation activities,” he said.

“Dear communities along the Mekong River, the Irrawaddy dolphin needs your support for its survival. Commit to protecting dolphins and do not use gillnets within their habitat,” he added.

The dolphin population in the Mekong River has been declining due to human activities in the last few decades especially due to modern fishing practices. Gillnets are particularly dangerous to dolphins and could cause the extinction of this species in the Mekong in the near future.

In an effort to save the Irrawaddy dolphin, the Cambodian government issued a sub-decree in September banning the use of gillnets within the dolphin’s habitat, a 180-km stretch of river between Kratie town and the Laos border.

Mr Meas Min, Chief of Koh Pdao Village, intends to inform people in his village about the ban on the use of gillnets in dolphin habitat and encourage good fishing practices outside the habitat to avoid accidental catching of dolphins.

“Villagers must be aware that using gillnets in the dolphin habitat is against the sub-decree and can cause serious danger to the remaining dolphins that we need to protect for the benefit of our future generations,” he said.

The Cambodian Rural Development Team in partnership with the Cambodian Government and WWF has implemented an alternative livelihoods programme to reduce the dependence of local communities on fishery resources, in favour of activities such as aquaculture, livestock-raising, vegetable growing and community based ecotourism.

“The Royal Cambodian Government has taken a big step toward conserving this species and this is a great opportunity for stakeholders all across the country to join together to save the Mekong River dolphin – the smiling face of the Mekong,” says Ms Michelle Owen, WWF’s Acting Country Director.

Original source