Awareness, supporting livelihood of local fishermen key to saving endangered dolphins

With eight Ayeyawady dolphins deaths have been recorded so far this year, the year 2020 has seen higher number of the deaths of the endangered species in compared to previous years which saw three to four deaths.
According to reports, dolphins are killed in accidental catches and illegal battery-shock fishing in the Ayeyawady River every year.
During the Ayeyawady Dolphin conservation project beginning on 1st September, 2020, the authorities arrested four fishermen for conducting the electrofishing in the river and seized 21 fishing boats with equipment for the illegal fishing.
Illegal battery-shock fishing is a dark side of the fishery sector in Myanmar, posing a big challenge for conservationists and local authorities in their questions to save the endangered species and the fish population in the rivers and creeks.
Listed as one of the world’s rarest and critically endangered species, Ayeyawaddy dolphins are at risk of extinction throughout its range.
To ensure that the Ayeyawady dolphins, the endangered species that is a part of Myanmar’s heritage, live safely in their habitat, the government has banned electrofishing nationwide, punishing violators with a three-year prison sentence and a Ks300,000 fine.
A survey conducted in February this year had shown over 70 dolphins between Mandalay and Bhamo, and 24 of them were recorded between Mandalay and Kyaukmyaung.
The first scientific survey on dolphins in Myanmar conducted in 2012 found their habitat to be in a 400 km stretch of river between Bhamo and Mingun. There is now roughly a minimum of 60 dolphins left in the Irrawaddy River source of the unique human-dolphin cooperative fishing phenomenon and dolphin-watching ecotourism.
Several baby dolphins spotted last year have brought an encouraging sign to conservationists that the endangered species are still breeding in the river.
However, recent arrest of fishermen, illegal electrofishing equipments and boats in the conservation area in the Ayeyawady River, has reflected that local communities do not understand much about the fisheries law and relevant rules. Or, it is questionable that they are doing this illegal fishing for making ends meet under threat of prison?
To bring the endangered species back from extinction and to increase the existing fishing population in our country, we should taken a dual approach: educating people about the ban on electrofishing and the penalties for violators, and to promote their livelihoods by creating proper job opportunities for them.

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