Electrofishing thrives despite crackdown in Mandalay

Eleven people have been prosecuted and 77 boats have been seized for electrofishing in dolphin protected zone of the Ayeyarwady River in Mandalay Region since January 2018, but the practice continues, authorities said.

U Han Win, who is in charge of Ayeyarwady dolphin conservation for the Fisheries Department, said that aside from taking punitive measures against illegal fishermen, his office was also trying to educate people in 163 villages along the river about the importance of protecting dolphins.

During that period, the agency had conducted 54 patrols, visited 163 villages to raise public awareness, and seized 650 fishing nets.

“The department has conducted patrols in cooperation with conservation groups in the Kyauk Myaung dolphin protection area of Mandalay twice a month since 2006,” he said.

“The maritime police have participated in the patrols since 2017 and aided efforts to crack down on illegal fishermen,” he added.

But electrofishing continues. The practice involves putting two wires in the water connected to a battery to send out an electric current. This stuns fish of all sizes and causes them to float to the surface.

Six endangered Ayeyarwady dolphins, including a month-old calf, died in the past six months, and it appears that many of them were killed by electrofishing. A recent survey found 79 Ayeyarwady dolphins in the river, and another will be conducted early next year.

The month-old calf was found dead near Sein Pan Gone village in Madaya township on June 27. It was 3 feet 7 inches long and 2 feet in girth.

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Phyo Wai Kyaw