Ayeyarwady dolphins survey to begin on 5 February
THE Myanmar wildlife conservation society will begin its annual survey of Ayeyarwady dolphins on 5th February.
The 10-day long survey will be conducted along the Ayeyarwady River between Mandalay and Bhamo, said U Kyaw Hla Thein, project manager of the dolphin conservation team of the Wildlife Conservation Society (Myanmar) to the Global New Light of Myanmar yesterday.
“We heard that one or two dead dolphins were found in the upper area of the river. We can confirm the number of dolphins only when we finished the survey,” he said.
The survey in January last year found 58 dolphins between Mandalay and Bhamo, which is a drop from 72 in 2004.
The team has been planning to conduct the survey after spotting a rare baby dolphin in a protected area between Mandalay and Kyaukmyaung in September. Dolphin conservationists are now preparing to conduct the annual survey of Ayeyarwady dolphins.
The team spotted the baby dolphin while carrying out conservation efforts in September of 2015. It was the first baby dolphin recorded in 2015.
The team also found three baby dolphins in December 2014.
The Ayeyarwady dolphin is found near sea coasts and in estuaries and rivers around Southeast Asia, especially in Myanmar, Cambodia and Viet Nam.
WCS annual surveys have shown that the number of the dolphins has increased from 17 or 18 in 2005 to 24 in February last year along a 72 kilometre stretch of the Ayeyarwady River between Mandalay and Kyaukmyaung.
Most of the dead dolphins were found near Bhamo and Katha and were killed by illegal fishing, according to the fisheries department.
Illegal electric-shock fishing is blamed for killing some dolphins, while some were caught in fishing nets.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has warned that Irrawaddy dolphins are at risk of extinction. In Myanmar, Ayeyarwady dolphins have been known to drive fish toward fishers using cast nets in return for some of the fishers’ catch.
Now that many fishers on the Ayeyarwady river use illegal battery-shock fishing techniques, the dolphins often also fall prey to electrocution.
Illegal battery-shock fishing is the greatest challenge for conservationists and local authorities in trying to save the endangered species, according to Myanmar’s fisheries department.
The Myanmar government has banned electrofishing nationwide, punishing violators with a three-year prison sentence and a K300,000 fine.
To prevent electro fishing in the river, government authorities and conservationists held a workshop in Mandalay in September last year. During the workshop, the attendees reached an agreement in principle to form a team comprising representatives from the WCS, the Fisheries Department and the police force to patrol the river once every two months.
“The fishermen who use electric shock for fishing do not intend to kill dolphins. Unfortunately, the dolphins follow the fish and die when they are shocked or captured,” U Kyaw Hla Thein said. “We will step up our efforts to educate them.” Local fishermen also spotted an Irrawaddy dolphin in the country’s Ayeyarwady delta in September.