Mekong biodiversity hotspot designated for management and conservation of fishery resources
Situated between Kratie and Steung Treng towns, in northeast Cambodia, the area is a mix of diverse habitats, including tall riverine forest, waterways and islands that support a range of species that have virtually disappeared from the rest of Southeast Asia. The official designation of this area for management and conservation provides an opportunity for the recovery of many globally significant animal and plant species.
The Mekong Flooded Forest was poorly known until 2006 and 2007 when research teams from the Fisheries Administration and Forestry Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and WWF conducted biological surveys of the area. The area supports the critically endangered Mekong Irrawaddy Dolphin and the rare Cantor’s Giant Softshell Turtle once thought to be extinct in the region. It also supports the third largest population of White-shouldered Ibis in Cambodia. The survey team also recorded a unique plant species (Amorphophallus sp., known as ‘corpse plants’) new for science, as well as new national records of rare plants, fish and reptile.
“The Royal Government of Cambodia recognises the biodiversity value of the area and the need to protect it for long term benefits. With the Prakas, current efforts to protect this important area will be strengthened,” said His Excellency Dr. NAO Thuok, Director-General of Fisheries Administration. “This is a treasure trove of biodiversity and natural resources for Cambodia, and I am confident that developing a management and conservation site for this biodiversity hotspot will greatly contribute to maintaining biodiversity ecosystem and promoting sustainable community use,” he added.
Following the surveys in 2006 and 2007, conservation measures were developed. Relevant agencies of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, WWF and other partners have been implementing a programme to assist national and provincial agencies in effective management of the site, which include capacity building, awareness raising among local communities adjacent to the site, sustainable livelihoods development to ensure that critical resources, especially fish and timber, are sustainably managed for local communities. Despite these efforts, pressures from human activities are increasing daily. The threats to this important site and its wildlife include land concessions that clear forests, fishing using destructive methods, and mining activities both on the mainland and on islands in the Mekong that destroy habitat.
“The Prakas offers an important legal framework for the current conservation projects in the Mekong Flooded Forest,” said Ms. Michelle Owen, WWF’s Acting Country Director. “The Prakas provides legitimacy for national and provincial authorities and partners such as WWF who are supporting activities on the ground, to address current and future threats to the area’s biodiversity and reinforce ongoing conservation initiatives that promote participation from the local community,” she explained.
In order to put the Prakas into action, Fisheries Administration officials and WWF will develop a comprehensive management plan to direct sustainable habitat and wildlife conservation activities.