Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Three Cambodian ministries propose regulating fishing in part of the Mekong River to protect the endangered Irrawaddy dolphin. Touch Sieng Tana, head of the semi-official Commission for Mekong Dolphin Conservation, said that the Tourism, Agriculture and Transportation Ministries would submit a draft bill to Cambodia's cabinet limiting fishing activity along a 180-km stretch of the river.
The new rules would not ban fishing altogether but would impose clear guidelines, banning the use of floating houses, fish cages and gill nets, the large, almost invisible nets that entangle all sorts of aquatic life.
Touch Sieng Tana said he expects the government to adopt the new regulations in the next few weeks.
His commission believes there are up to 180 dolphins living in Cambodia's portion of the Mekong River, but the conservation group WWF-Cambodia estimates there are only 85.
Whilst the International Union for Conservation of Nature considers the worldwide population of the dolphin-estimated at more than 7,000, concentrated in Bangladesh-to be "vulnerable," the subgroup in Cambodia is considered critically endangered.
"Banning or significantly restricting the use of gill nets in the dolphin habitat is essential if dolphins are to survive in the Mekong River," Gordon Congdon, freshwater conservation manager of WWF-Cambodia, said in an emailed statement.
To try to reduce the threat from fishing, Cambodia in 2007 launched a US 0,000 plan in cooperation with the World Tourism Organisation to increase awareness among villagers.