A SURVEY in February has found that there are now 76 Ayeyarwady dolphins in the conservation areas of the Ayeyarwady River, an increase from 69 found in the last survey.
Ayeyawady dolphins are a critically endangered species. Seven new dolphins, including two babies, were spotted by conservationists from the Fisheries Department and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) during the most recent survey trip, which began on 6 February and ended on 17 February.
The conservationists travelled the Ayeyawady River from Mandalay to Bhamo, Kachin State during the 11-day survey trip.
Officials said it is significant that two baby dolphins were found in the area between Htigyaing and Shweku townships, where two dolphins were found dead last year.
In the leg of Bhamo this year, the conservationists found 13 dolphins, including one baby dolphin, an increase from 7 last year. During the trip, authorities who accompanied the conservationists brought fishermen in 17 fishing boats to court on suspicion of electric battery-shock fishing, which is mostly blamed for the deaths of Ayeyawady dolphins.
Battery-shock fishing and net fishing are mostly blamed for the deaths of Ayayawady dolphins. With this most deaths of dolphins. Most of the dead dolphins were found near Bhamo and Katha and were caused by illegal fishing, according to the fisheries department.
The Fisheries Department and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) of Myanmar conducts a survey and research on the activities of Ayeyawady dolphins from Mandalay to Bhamo in Ayeyawady river in February every year.
The trip is scheduled to take place over 10 days. During the trip, the Fisheries Department and the WCS will provide awareness on dolphin conservation, as well as convince local villagers not to catch fish using electric-shock methods.
They will also set up signboards to warn and increase awareness among people,” said U Han Win, who is in charge of Ayeyawady dolphin conservation under the Fisheries Department.
Data on the dolphins will be collected with the use of a small boat and a ship. To locate the dolphins, we will use the GPS system, 7x50mm lens, a depth meter, a sounder and cameras.
Ayeyawady dolphins come to the water surface every 30 to 60 seconds and do not jump like sea dolphins, but only swim slowly. According to data collected in February 2017, there were 25 dolphins living ina 72-kilometre stretch between Mingun and Kyaukmyaung, 43 dolphins living in a 117-kilometre stretch in the Bhamo area and 68 dolphins living between Mandalay and Bhamo.
Electrocution suspected in death of endangered dolphin in Ayeyawady
The carcass of an Irrawaddy female dolphin was found in the Ayeyawady River in January 2018, according to an official of Katha Township’s Department of Fisheries.
“We received information that one Irrawaddy dolphin was found dead near the Aung Chan Thar ward in Katha Township in Sagaing Region. The dolphin was found with an injury on her blowhole believed to have been caused by a human. And it can also be assumed to be old in age because its size is 7 feet long”, said an official from the Department of Fisheries.
The killing of dolphins, which are believed to have been killed by illegal electrofishing in last two years, has set off alarm bells for conservationists to step up efforts for saving the endangered species.
During the monthly survey trip, the team found a one-foot long dolphin fetus in its mother’s womb. The Ayeyawady dolphin is on the brink of extinction.
Some conservationists suspect the degraded quality of the river water contributed to the death of the dolphin.
“The death can be assumed due to abortion because the water is polluted with chemicals from farmlands along the river and pollution caused by gold mines,” said U Han Win, a dolphin conservationist.
Battery-shock fishing and net fishing are mostly blamed for the deaths of Ayayawady dolphins.
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, Irrawaddy dolphins been known to drive fish toward fishers using cast nets in return for some of the fishers’ catch.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has warned that Irrawaddy dolphins are at risk of extinction. In Myanmar, Irrawaddy dolphins have been known to drive fish toward fishermen’s nets in return for some of the fishermen’s catch.
But with many fishermen on the Ayeyawady river using illegal battery-shock fishing techniques, the dolphins often also fall prey to electrocution.
Illegal battery-shock fishing has become a big challenge for conservationists and local authorities in their quest 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.
By Nyi Two