The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Natural Resources Conservation Organisation have condemned the use of illegal fishing equipment, following the recent discovery of a deceased juvenile freshwater dolphin which was killed by electric shock devices in Stung Treng province.

The dead Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) was about 7 years old and weighed 65kg. It was discovered in Siem Bok district’s Koh Chreum village of O’Mreah commune.

“According to a forensic examination by specialists from the Fisheries Administration (FiA) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the dolphin died of electric shocks to its head and body,” said a agriculture ministry’s November 15 press release.

Ministry spokeswoman Im Rachna said on November 16 that the ministry was deeply saddened to hear about the death, especially regarding the current efforts of state institutions and partner organisations to protect and conserve the dolphins, a national treasure.

“The ministry condemns all perpetrators who use illegal fishing equipment. The officials of the FiA and all other relevant authorities will use all of the means at their disposal to identify the perpetrators and punish them according to the law on fisheries,” she said.

WWF country director Seng Teak said that as a conservationist, he deeply regretted the loss of the juvenile dolphin to illegal fishermen. This was especially difficult to hear during November and December, the months when the mammals move from the Tonle Sap en route to the Mekong River.

“Our concern is with the use of illegal equipment in the dolphin habitat. I believe that despite regular patrols by the authorities, illegal fishermen are still infiltrating the areas where the dolphins live,” he added.

He called on the public, especially fishermen, to abandon the use of illegal fishing equipment, as it is a threat to a special animal that is part of the Kingdom’s unique natural heritage.

He added that participating in the care of dolphins to ensure that the next generations will know them is also crucial for economic reasons, as many visitors are drawn to the areas where the dolphins live.

As of November 15, Cambodia has recorded eight new dolphin births in 2023. Five have passed away, including two calves, two juveniles and an elderly specimen. This represents a net gain, and an improvement on the previous year, where just six births were recorded, while the bodies of 11 dolphins were discovered.