PM Repeals Sub-decree to Protect Mekong Dolphins

A sub-decree to protect Cambodia’s dwindling population of critically-endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in Kratie and Stung Treng has been repealed, with the PM claiming it will aid fishermen’s livelihoods
The dead dolphin after it was caught in a longline fishing hook. Kiripost via WWF Cambodia
The dead dolphin after it was caught in a longline fishing hook. Kiripost via WWF Cambodia

A sub-decree prohibiting fishing in dolphin protection areas in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces that was put in place to protect the critically-endangered water mammals after 11 died in 2022 has been repealed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, saying it will help fishermen.

The new sub-decree, signed on April 27, reinstates the sub-decree that existed before February 27, when the dolphin protected areas were established and restrictions placed on fishing. Hun Sen said that the decision to repeal the sub-decree was made to ensure the interests of the people.

He also emphasized that strict rules must be followed to prevent large net fishing, which threatens the lives of dolphins.

“The Royal Government will repeal the new sub-decree dated February 27, 2023, and reinstate the old sub-decree dated September 25, 2012. The old sub-decree will be implemented in particular to strengthen the control of not allowing the use of large nets and the use of fishing gear,” Hun Sen said at a training ceremony at Royal University of Phnom Penh on Thursday.

Hun Sen’s decision to repeal the new sub-decree was made after 11 dolphins died last year, some due to becoming entangled with fishing nets and hooks.

Last year’s deaths brought the total number of dead dolphins to 29 in the last three years, according to WWF Cambodia.

The old decree designates a Mekong River Dolphin Management Area of 120 kilometers long, of which the area in Stung Treng is 35 kilometers long and Kratie is 85 kilometers long. It is divided into two main areas, a Dolphin Sanctuary and Dolphin Protection Area.

The new sub-decree will allow people to fish during dry season with nets smaller than 4cm by 4cm in the protected area, with monitoring.

The Mekong River is home to a small population of Irrawaddy dolphins, which are critically-endangered. The dolphins are threatened by habitat loss, pollution, and fishing.

WWF Cambodia did not immediately respond to a request from Kiripost seeking comment.