Another Dead Mekong Dolphin Puts Pressure on Population

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A Mekong dolphin was caught in a fishing net near the border between Kratie and Stung Treng on December 18, 2022. (WWF)
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An Irrawaddy dolphin was found dead in Mekong river this weekend, according to a conservation group, marking a worrying rise in deaths of the critically endangered species.

The World Wildlife Fund posted on Facebook that the dolphin was found dead on Sunday, aged 15-20 years and weighing 162 kilograms. The dead dolphin was found near a deep pool on the Stung Treng and Kratie border.

According to the conservation group, the dolphin likely died after getting entangled in fishing nets, with signs of the net found all over its body. There have been nine deaths this year and 27 in the last three years, said WWF in the post.

“It is extremely terrifying every time a dead dolphin is discovered. The death of a healthy adult dolphin like this one is sad given its currently tiny population, as this directly affects the breeding potential of the Mekong dolphins,” said Seng Teak, WWF’s Cambodia country director.

Tep Asnarith, WWF’s director of public affairs, said fishing nets are often responsible for dolphin deaths, adding that 170,000 meters of nets had been confiscated in the last three years and 105 incidents of electric fishing seen in deep pools where dolphins are found.

He added it was concerning that more dolphins were dying in the last few years.

Ouk Vibol, director for fisheries conservation at the Fisheries Ministry, said there had been typically four to eight dolphin deaths a year before the recent rise in the past three years.

There were now 89 adult dolphins in the wild, and potentially up to 100 if they counted infants. He said normally dolphins were dying of old age but now more adults are dying after getting caught in nets or during illegal fishing activities at night.

“Dolphins die every year, but in the last three years more adult dolphins have died, which is a concern,” he said, adding that fewer dolphins were reaching old age.

The Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins are found from northern Kratie to the Laotian border and are on the IUCN Red List, according to the WWF.

Correction: This article previously misstated the length of fishing nets confiscated.

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