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August 11, 2020

Fish conservation should follow through with education, punishments, along with livelihood programmes for violators

While the highest number of the endangered Ayeyawady dolphins was found this year since 2010, the killing of five dolphins in six months has blown the lid off a big challenge from the illegal battery-shock fishing and pollution in the river.
The survey carried out this year by the Wildlife Conservation Society of Myanmar (WCS) found 79 dolphins in the river.
Though the conservation of the Ayeyawady dolphins, which are facing the risk of extinction, is considered on the right path, the species are often prey to electrofishing, which has been banned nationwide.
The Myanmar government has banned electrofishing nationwide, punishing violators with a three-year prison sentence and a Ks300,000 fine.
The illegal fishing method involves putting lines of wire into the water, connecting the two ends to a battery and passing an electric shock into the water. This stuns the fish, which then float to the surface. The technique kills fish of all sizes.
From 2017 to 2020 to date, about 20 fishing boats were seized and three fishermen were arrested for the use of electric shocks for fishing.
Despite education programmes and penalties for violators, fishermen still use the battery shock fishing and toxic chemicals not only in the Ayeyawady River but also in other rivers nationwide.
The situation has shown that it would be difficult for the villagers who are relying on fishing for their livelihood to avoid illegal or legal fishing if they could not get income from other sources.
Just education is not enough to fight illegal fishing. Violators would be thinking about their jobs and livelihoods while the people, authorities and conservationists are deeply concerned about saving the endangered species and the sustainability of fishing stocks in rivers and creeks.
In a bid to prevent fish resources from extinction in the country, the district and township fisheries departments should draw up projects to eliminate illegal fishing methods along with livelihood programmes for those who are relying on fishing for income.
Before alarm bells ring, the authorities should step up efforts to conserve not only the endangered Ayeyawady dolphins but also the country’s fish resource.
If the numbers of fish decline, it will threaten the dolphins too.


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