Yangon (dpa) – Authorities in Myanmar are trying to promote the resurgence of cooperative fishing with freshwater dolphins, a practice which has been lost as the species becomes endangered.
“Actually, fishermen and Irrawaddy dolphins were used to work together fishing in the river. We are now trying to re-cultivate the practice by providing assistance to fishermen from nearby villages,” said Deputy Director Han Win from Myanmar’s Fishery Department.
“For a long time, fishermen used to communicate with dolphin by splashing the oars in the water and tapping a stick on one side of boat, and they would go fishing together,” Han Win said.
The species is endangered in Myanmar because of electric-shock fishing and small-mesh fishing nets, he said.
“The dolphins are afraid of fishermen now.”
Authorities plan to provide assistance to four villages along a 230-kilometre dolphin protection zone of Irrawaddy River in central Mandalay and Sagaing divisions. Their aim is to convince fishermen to use alternative ways of fishing instead of using electric shocks.
“Then hopefully we can cultivate the practise again. This may be one of tourist attractions,” Han Win said.
There are larger numbers of the dolphin in both India and Bangladesh, but there are only about 63 left in the Irawaddy river of Myanmar. That makes this population critically endangered, one step away from extinction.
“We are still surveying them. So, I can’t tell you exactly how many dolphins are in the Irrawaddy River,” Han Win said.
The dolphin is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “red list” of threatened species.
Conservationists are planning ecotourism packages in 2015 to raise awareness and promote the protection of the dolphins’ habitat.