Target: Cambodia Ministry of Environment, Technical Director General Mr. Lonh Heal
Goal: Save highly endangered Mekong River dolphins by implementing stricter net fishing laws and creating educational programs for fishermen.
The Irrawaddy dolphin is a oceanic dolphin species native to the coasts, estuaries, and rivers of Southeast Asia. The Mekong River, Cambodia subspecies of Irrawaddy dolphins is currently one of the most endangered species in the world. These dolphins have been listed as critically endangered since 2004. Only an estimated 85 individuals currently live in the river. Because these dolphins normally live close to the shore, rather than deep out at sea, they are more susceptible to the negative impact of human activity. One of the most common causes of death for these endangered dolphins is drowning in fishing nets.
Fishermen do not net these dolphins on purpose, but they are commonly caught by accident in gill, drag, and crab nets. Drawn in by the food sources also captured in these nets, the dolphins often become entangled in the underwater netting. They drown, just like a human would, if they cannot reach the surface of the water to breathe. Although it is reported that most local fishermen are sympathetic towards the dolphins, they do not want to give up traditional fishing methods.
A recent World Wildlife Fund (WWF) survey found that the Mekong watershed dolphins are not only suffering from low numbers, but for unknown reasons their calves also have extremely low survival rates. The Director of WWF’s Freshwater Program, Dr. Li Lifeng, reported that “evidence is strong that very few young animals survive to adulthood, as older dolphins die off and are not replaced.”
High calf mortality rates, coupled with the dangers presented by net entanglement, make extinction for the Mekong River dolphins a very real possibility. Experts agree that in order for the subspecies to survive the cooperation of local fishermen is essential. Let the Cambodia Ministry of Environment know that the survival of this endangered species is imperative. Ask for stricter net fishing laws and educational programs that help local fishermen find a better balance between their work and the survival of the natural ecosystem they depend on for their livelihood.
Dear Technical Director General Mr. Lonh Heal,
A recent World Wildlife Fund survey estimated the population of Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphins to number only around 85 individuals. The main threat to these beautiful animals is the use of fishing nets. Dolphins, drawn to the nets by the fish captured there, commonly become entangled in underwater netting. They drown when they cannot reach the surface of the water to breathe.
Low calf survival rates, coupled with the dangers presented by fishing nets, make extinction for this rare species a very real possibility. Please consider instituting stricter net fishing laws, and funding educational programs that aim to teach local fishermen ways to capture fish without impacting other species, such as these endangered dolphins. A better balance must be found between the fishers and the natural ecosystem that they depend on.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: David Dove / WWF Greater Mekong