Irrawaddy Dolphin Victim of Electric Shock Fishing

By San Yamin Aung 18 November 2016

RANGOON — The body of a pregnant dolphin found dead on the banks of the Irrawaddy River in Sagaing Division this week has resurfaced the issue of illegal electric shock fishing in Burma.

The 30-year-old dolphin who was eight-months pregnant died from an electric shock in a protected area of the river near Kyauk Myaung town said U Kyaw Hla Thein, a project coordinator with Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Myanmar’s dolphin conservation team.

“When we examined the body, we found it was not a natural death from childbirth or from ageing and there was no injury from being trapped in a net,” he said. “So we are sure it was death from electrocution.”

This is the third river dolphin to be found dead this year—one dolphin was found trapped in a fishing net in August and a younger dolphin died of unknown causes earlier in the year.

The Irrawaddy river dolphin population had been declining significantly in recent years.

According to WCS data, 86 dolphins were counted in the protection zone in 2012, but just 63 in 2014 and only 58 in 2015.

Numbers may be on the rise, however, as 65 dolphins—including three babies—were found during a survey in February this year.

“We have been focusing on Irrawaddy dolphin conservation efforts as their numbers reached critical condition,” said U Kyaw Hla Thein from WCS. “Illegal electric shock fishing has contributed to the decline in dolphins.”

According to the Department of Fisheries under the rural development ministry, electric shock fishing is banned with violators at risk of a 300,000 kyats fine or a three-year prison sentence.

U Kyaw Hla Thein said that a team comprised of representatives from the WCS, the Department of Fisheries and the police force will step up their river patrols, which are currently conducted once every two months.