Human Interest

Cambodia volte-face on law to protect critically endangered dolphins

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, April 27 (EFE).- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen overturned a legislation to preserve Mekong dolphins on Thursday, just two months after authorizing greater protection for the critically endangered species.

Hun Sen ordered the annulment because “dolphins keep dying” despite the law, which was enacted on February 27.

The law ordered the formation of a permanent core zone on the Mekong River for improved protection of the Irrawaddy dolphins following the deaths of the mammals due to fishing nets.

The measure banned fishing nets in a 120 km section of the river in the provinces of Kratie and Stung Treng.

It also barred fishing activities in protected conservation zones to protect the Irrawaddy dolphins found in the coastal areas in South and Southeast Asia.

The withdrawal of the law means Cambodia will return to the previous regulation, promulgated in 2012, the state news agency Kampuchea Presse said.

The prime minister said the government wanted “to protect dolphins that are at risk of becoming extinct, but dolphins keep dying.”

“Dolphins keep entangling in gillnets despite the ban,” he said.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphins inhabit a 118-mile stretch between Cambodia and Lao PDR and are scarce — just an estimated 92 exist.

Irrawaddy dolphins have a bulging forehead, a short beak, and 12–19 teeth on each jaw.

They are distinguished by their grey to dark blue color and tiny fin. They weigh between 90 and 200 kg and are about 2.5 meters long.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Irrawaddy dolphin is red-listed as endangered, while the three riverine subpopulations are all critically endangered (Mekong, Mahakam, Ayeyarwady).

The Cambodian prime minister insisted that the authorities will monitor the area to prevent nets from being used beyond the permitted size.

The Cambodian authorities have registered three births and two deaths of the species in the first three months of the year.

In 2002, six births and 11 deaths were reported. EFE


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