News Release

Marine Mammal Symposium in Phnom Penh: Drawing lessons for trans-boundary dolphin conservation

08 April 2015
Irrawaddy Dolphins in Koh Kong, Cambodia
Photo: Petch Manopawitr

While more research is needed to assess the population and trans-boundary movements of dolphins along the Thai-Cambodian border, local fishing communities should be closely involved in the monitoring and protection of Irrawaddy dolphins and other cetacean species. Promoting sustainable fisheries, along with strengthening local monitoring networks, are among the key activities that will help protect these species, which are important indicators of the health of coastal ecosystems.

These were the conclusions of the Marine Mammal Symposium at the 9th Annual Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation Asia-Pacific Chapter, which was held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, from 30 March to 2 April 2015. The symposium on Local and global challenges to conserving threatened tropical marine mammals in Asia brought together researchers from South and Southeast Asia to share information and approaches for dolphin conservation and, in particular, to inform IUCN’s trans-boundary dolphin conservation project.

“To address one of the most pressing challenges for coastal dolphins in Thailand and Cambodia, which is entanglement in fishing gear, we need to work with local communities to get their support and cooperation. Local communities can be the champions for dolphin conservation,” said Chalatip Janchompoo, Marine Biologist at the Eastern Gulf of Thailand Marine and Coastal Research Center, Thailand's Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.

Presenters and organizers of marine mammal symposium in dedication to Thailand's departed marine mammal expert, Dr Kanjana Adulyanukosol, senior scientist at the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources. Photo: Petch ManopawitrThe project will encourage sharing of information between Cambodia and Thailand to increase understanding of the trans-boundary dolphin movements, population and shared threats. “Coastal dolphins in Trat areas are truly significant but they are facing serious threats as indicated by a very high number of dolphin carcasses found during the past two years. Research findings should be used to inform agreements on zoning and gear restrictions with local communities and to make fishing practices more sustainable not just for dolphins but for the long-term Marine Mammal Symposium at the ATBC Asia-Pacific Chapter Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo: Petch Manopawitrsustainability of marine resources,” said Petch Manopawitr, Deputy of IUCN Southeast Asia Group and the Project Manager.

At the project kick-off meeting, collaboration and data sharing between the two countries was discussed with representatives from Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources and Cambodia’s Fisheries Administration, as well as the Director of Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary of Koh Kong, Cambodia. In addition, Rubaiyat Mansur of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project shared lessons and experiences from the long-term dolphin conservation and monitoring project in Southern Bangladesh.

“This symposium should be the beginning of continued sharing of information across borders. Strengthening mortality monitoring networks and building local awareness and capacity on both sides of the Thai-Cambodian border is key to conserving the threatened dolphin species in this trans-boundary area. We need to act quickly to ensure the survival of this internationally significant dolphin population,” said Brian Smith, Director, Asian Freshwater and Coastal Cetacean Program, Wildlife Conservation Society and Asia Coordinator, IUCN SSC Cetacean Specialist Group.


  1. Dedication to Kanjana Adulyanukosol by Petch Manopawitr and Brian Smith
  2. Long Vu: Conservation status of cetaceans in Kien Giang biosphere reserve, Kien Giang province, Vietnam
  3. Lou Vanny: Conservation status of Irrawaddy dolphins in the Peam Krasop Wildlife Sanctuary, Cambodia
  4. Rubaiyat Mansur: Detecting the unseen through application of a robust mark-resight design for estimating humpback dolphin demographics in Bangladesh
  5. Chalatip Janchompoo: Population estimate of Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) using mark-recapture method in Trat Bay, Trat Province
  6. Surasak Thongsukdee: Study of Bryde’s Whale in the Upper Gulf of Thailand



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