Sounds of safety: Pingers protect river dolphins

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River dolphins often die in fishing nets: cheap pingers can save them

 

With all four of Asia's river dolphin species threatened with extinction, an innovative project in Indonesia has proven that electronic 'pingers' can help save river dolphins - and benefit local fishers. Now you can help us purchase pingers to save river dolphins across the continent.

Only 80 river dolphins are left in Indonesia’s Mahakam river and accidental entanglement in fishing nets has caused two thirds of dolphin deaths in the river in the past 25 years. Which is why the results of the pinger pilot in the Mahakam are so exciting. It's clear that river dolphins avoid nets with 'pingers' (acoustic devices that emit sounds to warn river dolphins away). This has helped to protect dolphins and resulted in a drastic increase in the average daily catch by local fishers.

Now we need to expand this project along the Mahakam and in other river dolphin rivers in Asia, including the Ganges, Indus and Irrawaddy. And we need your help. Just €4,50 is enough to 'pinger-protect' 1 metre of fishing net, while €70 will buy pingers to protect an entire net.

With a small contribution you can help to save river dolphins - and put more food on a family's plate.

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Background

Pingers have been shown to reduce by-catch in gillnet fisheries for many marine dolphin, porpoise and whale species, but they had never been thoroughly tested with river dolphins.

The pilot project in the Mahakam river has proven that they are effective in rivers. Along with helping to safeguard the dolphins, the pingers have also enhanced the livelihood of local fishers. Studying 33 fishers over a period of six months revealed that dolphins no longer prey on fish in gillnets with pingers, which has reduced costly damage to the nets and resulted in a dramatic 40% increase in average daily catches. Larger fish were also caught when the pingers were active. 

With bycatch being the number one cause of direct deaths to river dolphins worldwide, it’s critical to replicate the pinger project in other rivers. But the pingers could also help other river dolphins to avoid fishing nets, while also preventing Indus and Ganges dolphins, which are blind, from becoming stranded in irrigation canals.

“Reducing dolphin-fisher conflict is central to global efforts to save all six river dolphin species so we urgently need to expand the pinger project to other river dolphin rivers across Asia,” said Daphne Willems, WWF.

For more information on river dolphins and solutions to safe them, see: www.riverdolphins.org.