August 28, 2016

Myanmar’s unique co-operation between fish and man

Fishermen are catching fish with the help of dolphins in the Ayeyarwady River near Mandalay.  Photo: Supplied
Fishermen are catching fish with the help of dolphins in the Ayeyarwady River near Mandalay.
Photo: Supplied

Fishing with the help of Ayeyawady dolphins, the endangered species in the Ayeyawady River near Mandalay, is expected to be set up as an eco-tourism site.
The Directorate of the Hotels and Tourism and Wildlife Conservation Society-WCS (Myanmar) held a meeting on 22 August to cooperate on the issue.
In Myanmar, Ayeyawady dolphins have been known to drive fish toward fishermen’s  nets. In return, the fishermen share some of their  catch with the dolphins, organisers said. “The unique cooperation between fish and man can be found only in Myanmar, and the number of visitors reached more than one thousand in the watching season,” said U Han Win, who is in charge of the Ayeyawady Dolphins Conservation team of WCS (Myanmar). A survey is currently being conducted in cooperation with foreign experts to help turn the conservation area for the dolphins into an eco-tourism site.
During the meeting, the authorities and the conservationists discussed the unique cooperation between man and dolphins and raising awareness on the preservation of Ayeyawady dolphins.
The plan includes establishment of community houses at suitable places along the 74-km distance of the river between Mandalay and Kyaukmyaung.
The move is aimed at educating local residents, some of whom  participate in the electrocution of fish, which poses a serious threat to the survival of the dolphins.
The conservationists found a dead dolphin in the area on 15 August, 2016, the first recorded death of an Ayeyawady dolphin this year. The death brought the number of known Ayeyawady dolphins in the area down to only 24.
Local people put blame the dolphin’s death on those who electrocute fish.
However, some conservationists say the delphon could have died accidently due to becoming entangled in a net used for the prevention of erosion.
A survey in February found 58 dolphins between Mandalay and Bhamo, which is a drop from 72 in 2004.
The Ayeyawady dolphins are 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 2014, 2 along a 72 kilometre stretch of the Ayeyawady River between Mandalay and Kyaukmyaung. Most of the dead dolphins were found near Bhamo and Katha and were caused by illegal fishing, according to the fisheries department. Illegal battery-shock fishing is the greatest challenge for conservationists and local authorities are 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.—Aung Thant Khaing


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