Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen urged government authorities during a meeting last Friday to issue ID Poor cards to people living in the Irrawaddy dolphin protected area, as an incentive to cease fishing.
Conservationists working towards the protection of Irrawaddy dolphins supported PM Hun Sen’s suggestion which he proposed at an annual meeting for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, which assessed the results achieved in 2022 and established objectives for 2023.
“We should provide them with ID Poor cards as an incentive for them to cease fishing. If we do not do so, they will continue to use fishing nets, as it is their only source of income. The government can afford to support them, and it is necessary to protect the dolphin population,” said the Cambodian PM.
“Administrative measures alone are not enough. I want you all to determine how many families are still fishing in the protected areas, and come up with a plan to create new jobs for them,” he added.
Director of the Fisheries Conservation Department of the Fisheries Administration, Mr. Ouk Vibol, supported the PM’s actions saying it was the right thing to do to prioritize the removal of environmental pressure from the habitat of the Irrawaddy dolphins.
“This is vital work. There are almost 100 canyons in the Mekong River that are potential breeding grounds for the dolphins, and over 1,300 fishing families in the same areas. More than 90 percent of dolphin deaths have been attributed to fishing nets,” he said.
He added that ID cards and the creation of new livelihoods for the locals will help reduce the alarming mortality rate of the already endangered species. Mr. Vibol supported the Prime Minister’s recommendations to provide ID Poor cards as the most reliable way to end illegal fishing practices that threaten the Irrawaddy dolphin population.
“I support the prime minister’s recommendations of providing ID Poor cards and offering alternative employment. These seem like the most sure-fire ways to end the illegal fishing practices which threaten the Irrawaddy dolphin population,” he said.
Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Cambodia country director, Mr. Seng Teak, also endorsed providing cards and new livelihoods to local families.
However, Mr. Teak suggested that it is important to ascertain that those receiving the cards are genuinely impoverished. He also called for the authorities to monitor the families to ensure they did not return to illegal finishing.
The last freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin living on a section of the Mekong River in Laos died in February last year, after getting entangled in a fishing net. The species has now been declared extinct in Laos.