Thailand boosts protection of dolphins in Songkhla Lake

World Bank meeting on dolphins in Songkhla Lake approves new strategy

There are as few as 14 Irrawaddy dolphins in Songkhla Lake. The situation is so serious that the World Bank has become involved.

Global dolphin experts recently met with local agencies at the World Bank office in Bangkok to come up with better ways to make sure the dolphins survive, and even flourish.

The largest-ever convention of dolphin experts included the World Bank, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and groups from India, Cambodia and Laos. Thailand’s departments of marine and coastal resources, fisheries, and rural roads laid out their action plan to safeguard the river dolphins in Songkhla Lake.

Thon Thamrong-Nawasawat, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Fisheries at Kasetsart University is chairman of a marine endangered species working group. He said the meeting had agreed that Thailand will carry out extensive research with a joint declaration on the protected area, patrols, fishing and awareness.

Thon has warned that a new bridge planned across Songkhla Lake will hurt the dolphins. He said the number of Irrawaddy dolphins in the lake is likely to drop every year. With the future of dolphins uncertain, he has urged the government to consider the bridge’s impact before starting construction.

According to Thai PBS World, the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) of the bridge will include the installation of sediment curtains, a dolphin watch patrol boat, warning alerts, and underwater acoustic recorders.

Thon said the government should seek a grant from the World Bank to protect rare aquatic animals including the dugong in Trang and Krabi, Irrawaddy dolphins in Songkhla and Phatthalung, and the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin in Nakhon Si Thammarat and Surat Thani.

The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources will run crowdfunding campaigns, alongside a mass media tour, hiring social media influencers. The department will make a documentary on dolphins in Songkhla Lake and set up a conservation centre. In terms of immediate operations, patrols are urgently needed.

Kasetsart University hopes to see no more than one stranded dolphin per year, which will stabilise the population for 15 years and postpone the risk of extinction of dolphins in Songkhla Lake by 30 years. The population has been declining over the past 30 years, with fatal entanglement in gill nets the most serious threat.

Irrawaddy dolphins are a critically endangered species, found only in five countries, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Thailand.

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.