Development of a long-term regional dolphin research and conservation management strategy, particularly for the Brahmaputra river ecosystem, sustained by continued engagement with local fishing communities.
Occurring in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Megna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of the Indian subcontinent, it is the sole survivor of a cetacean group that occurred in all of the world’s oceans millions of years ago. It swims on its side and upside down and is virtually blind, using ‘fingers’ on its fins and echolocation to find food along the river bottom. They are ‘flagship’ predators and play a very important role in maintaining the health of the freshwater river habitat. Following the extinction of the Yangtze River dolphin, the endangered Ganges River dolphin is now the most threatened freshwater cetacean, with around 2,000 individuals left (of which less than 300 remain in the Brahmaputra river).
This dolphin lives in one of the most densely populated areas of the world. Since 1956, more than 38 dams have been built, and in parts of the Ganges about half of the dolphins isolated by these have disappeared. The proposed Ganges-Brahmaptura inter-link canal and dam project will increase habitat loss and degradation, dolphin separation and stranding. Pollution by fertilisers, pesticides and industrial chemicals are known to kill fish, the dolphins’ main food source. Other threats include overfishing, deliberate killing for meat or oil, accidental entanglement in nets and potentially disease-although very little is known on this aspect The problem of entanglement is huge as dolphins often live in or near primary fishing sites.
1) Analyse survey data and calculate dolphin abundance estimates, and wide-ranging collection of fisheries and socio-economic data.
2) To develop the capacity of the DCN so that in the near future they can manage the sustainable use of aquatic resources around the Brahmaputra river.
3) Cost/benefit analysis of dolphin eco-tourism.Create recovery plans and improve protection for the river dolphin and the wider ecosystem through building local capacity.