The main threat to Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong River is accidental catch in gillnet fisheries.

Tbong Klar.jpg (84167 bytes)
Image of a Irrawaddy dolphin which died after it became entangled in a large mesh sized gillnet in Tbong Klar (Stung Treng Province). 

The fishermen do not want to catch the dolphins in fishing gear, but they are occasionally accidentally caught. Dolphins must breathe air to live. If caught in a net underwater, it often only takes 3-5 minutes for the dolphin to die.

Additional threats exist through:

dynamite fishing – which can kill dolphins outright, or causes significant damage to the dolphins sensitive hearing and internal organs.

potential dam construction – which could affect water flow levels, segregate the dolphin population and destroy fish stocks.

over-fishing – the unsustainable exploitation of fish stocks in the Mekong River could reduce prey species that are available to the dolphins - and also to local people).

tourism – if unregulated, tourism can cause major problems to the survival of localized dolphin groups, causing them stress and not giving groups enough ‘free time’ to feed, sleep and play.