Cambodian Marine Mammal CP

Monitoring the local Irrawaddy dolphins and the return of dugongs to Cambodian waters
Project by Marine Conservation Cambodia

Irrawaddy Dolphin Orcaella brevirostris
Dugong Dugong dugon
Cambodia See on the map
Since 2017
Irrawaddy Dolphin Orcaella brevirostris
Dugong Dugong dugon
Since 2017
Cambodia See on the map
Habitat Protection
Species Protection
Scientific Contribution
Community Engagement
Policy Enhancement
Operational Efficiency
Long-term Viability

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The use of destructive fishing practices is hard to regulate consistently. Cambodian NGO, Marine Conservation Cambodia has implemented a form of continual and passive enforcement which prevents bottom trawlers from fishing in the regulated fishing areas by the deployment of Fishery Production Structures. The impact of this work is being monitored by the NGO’s Monitoring program – the Cambodian Marine Mammal Conservation Project (CMMCP). This work supplies the local decision makers with policy orientated data and works with the local communities by  raising awareness on the importance of these animals and including their valuable insight into their work. This protection has resulted in the return of key species to the area, and its monitoring will help to expand the area in which this conservation technique is used.

What are we fundraising for?

•Maintenance of land tower where marine surveys can be conducted low cost with binoculars form land.
•Boat surveys.
•Allowance for fishermen participating in monitoring program.

•Data collection for scientific research needed for policy change.
•Increased local knowledge on marine species and therefore ocean health.

Goal: €9.444,00

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New €456,88 23 donations

Sea the Work

Project budget

Yearly budget: € 32.585,16

Budget secured: 71.9 %






Awarness & Outreach

Deep dive

Marine Conservation Cambodia (MCC), the executive NGO for the Cambodian Marine Mammal Conservation Program (CMMCP) was established in Koh Rong Samloem in 2008. They became well known for their proactive approach to conservation – taking matters into their own hands – chasing illegal fishing boats and confiscating illegal fishing material. MCC works with a mix of international and Cambodian conservationists. Over many years of forming a good relationship with the community and the local authorities, they have assisted in creating Cambodia’s first Marine Fisheries Management Area. The work has clearly demonstrated results as they have been invited to expand their work to the island of Kep.

Bottom trawling, a type of fishing technique that drags a net along the sea floor, devastated much of Cambodias coastal areas.  This type of fishing is highly unselective and catches or uproots most marine life in its path. This has led to the serious decline of the seagrass habitat and consequently the animals that rely on it for their survival- some more than others. Dugongs are heavily reliant on seagrass as their main food source, abandoned the area and were rarely seen alive for the past 20 years. The Irrawaddy dolphin a very charismatic dolphin– would also experience increased stress and an negative impact on population health and possibly abundance. The lack of fish was also noticed by the local community, heavily reliant on fish as a source of income and food.

Despite the implementation of Marine Fisheries Management Areas, in which specific fishing techniques are restricted, some fishermen do not comply with the regulations. Unfortunately, resources to enforce the rules are limited. However, MCC is deploying low-cost and locally produced Fishery Production Structures (large blocks on the sea floor), which provide a passive form of continual enforcement by physically impeding bottom-trawl nets from passing through the area , while providing important nursery grounds for fish as well functioning as artificial reefs. You can learn more about these structures below in the Areas of Work.

In 2017 CMMCP was created to monitor the population of marine mammals in the coastal area Kep and Kampot to try to measure the status of the ecosystem and to understand which areas require protection the most. With this data they were able to proof the positive impact their Fishery Production Structures have had. Because of its success MCC was invited by many local communities to deploy more structures in neighboring provinces. This conservation technique finds major acceptance in the local communities as artisanal fishermen, who use legal fishing methods, are seeing an increase in their catch rates. The success of their work has been awarded the National Geographic Marine Protection Prize.

Importantly the CMMCP works with the local community by training local fishermen to record data when working offshore. This work has multiple benefits as as not only are the fishermen learning about the local residents of their water, but because it also expands their area of data collection and the number of eyes on the water.

The projects’ goal is expanding its area of work across all coastal Cambodia and grow their network of collaborating fishermen.

Areas of work

The data being collected by the team is addressing the research needed for both Irrawaddy dolphins and Dougong as determined by the IUCN such as data on behavior abundance, distribution and residency of marine mammals in Cambodia. This data, channeled to the local authorities, is critical for the conservation and site management planning for this region. Furthermore, the team has demonstrated a consistent production of scientific articles, all available open source.

CMMCP works with young Cambodian citizens in their projects, building capacity in conservation work and leadership skills. They also engage with the community as part of the project activities – respecting and integrating local fishermen knowledge into their work. This is a very valuable approach as it serves to increase local awareness on conservation needs of marine mammals, as well as it increases the capacity for data collection. Fishermen spend many more hours at sea at diverse hours and can provide a lot of data for the team to compile and report.

Marine Conservation Cambodia was the first to start this work in the area, doing so in collaboration with the department of fisheries. With regular reporting to the department, we know this data is being channeled in the right direction. There were none-to few sightings of Dugongs for several years prior to the Fishery Production Structures, and how they will be best protected is still being uncovered.

The Fishery Production Structures (FPS) are large blocks of concrete which are created locally and then deployed in protected areas with a high incidence of unregulated and destructive fishing practices. The blocks form a passive form of continual enforcement of the MPAs as they do not allow bottom trawling boats to fish in protected areas – whilst allowing artisanal fishermen to continue their work.

FPS are also designed to enhance the environment and help the regeneration of the life in these areas. By constructing the blocks with space for water flow and maximal surface area for substrate attachment, they are encouraging the growth of filter feeders and environmental producers which in turn will attract larger fish and crabs to the area.

The FPS are a very creative yet simple, low cost and effective way to enforce the regulations of Marine Protected Areas.


Dugong dugon

Irrawaddy Dolphin

Orcaella brevirostris

New €9.444,00 Goal

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