Coastal Dolphins

9 species

WCS has played a leading scientific role in defining conservation units for nine coastal dolphin species.

6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins

In 2009, WCS researchers found 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins swimming in the Sundarbans mangrove forest of Bangladesh and adjacent waters of the Bay of Bengal. Previously, the largest known populations of the dolphin had numbered in the low hundreds.

90f8vs0me8 dophin with fisherman
Photo Credit: ©Brian Smith/WCS

Bycatch is the most critical extinction threat facing marine megafauna in coastal seas, including the world's most endangered dolphins, porpoises, seals, dugongs, sharks, and marine turtles. These vulnerable species share coastal waters with small-scale fisheries that employ 99% of the world's 50 million fishers. An estimate of global dolphin and porpoise bycatch indicates that more than 300,000 individuals are killed each year, with about 98% resulting from entanglement in gillnets and about 2% in trawlers and other gear, such as long lines.

A global review of marine mammal consumption by humans concluded that targeted hunts of small cetaceans have generally been reduced and capture in fishing gear is now regarded as the greatest threat to the animals' survival, especially in coastal regions. Although some recent attention has been given to understanding the nature and magnitude of global megafauna bycatch, very little action has been taken to solve the problem, especially in developing countries where it is most acute.

WCS has the leadership and expertise to tackle the bycatch problem for humpback dolphins. We have successful field projects studying and conserving these dolphins in the Congo Basin Coast, Tanzania, Kenya, Madagascar, and Bangladesh. WCS has also established an extensive network of marine conservation partners, including active collaborations with numerous local partners conserving coastal dolphins across the range of the species group as well as international and national institutions involved in reducing the bycatch of global marine megafauna. These institutions include, among others, the IUCN Species Survival Commission's Cetacean Specialist Group, the Convention on Migratory Species, the International Whaling Commission, and the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission.

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