There are about 300 Ganges River Dolphin in the Brahmaputra river system of India. Until three decades agos plenty of them were present in the entire river system including occurrences in most of its tributaries. Now their distribution is confined to the river's mainstream, as well as the Subansiri and Kulsi Rivers with a total river length of about 1050 km.
Major causes of this rapid population decline include accidental killing through fishing net entanglement, deliberate killing for its oil to be used as fish bait by certain fishermen community, unsustainable fishing practices in and around dolphin habitats through the use of destructive fishing gear as well as illegal fishing during closed fishing season, water development projects, habitat degradation with increasing pollution and siltation. This project will work to minimize the first three threats through local community involvement and empowerment.
As part of its active work in dolphin conservation in Brahmaputra river system for the last 7 years, Aaranyak established its community-based Dolphin Conservation Network (DCN) in 2008 across 30 dolphin priority habitats.
This DCN initiative, with one trained community youth in each of the 30 sites in dolphin and habitat monitoring as well as preventing dolphin threats at local level, has resulted in reduction in dolphin mortality by approximately 40% in these sites in 5 years. This project aims at strengthening this community based dolphin conservation initiative in these 30 sites of the Brahmaputra by bringing more community support to each DCN unit, capacity building with each DCN unit and regular monitoring of dolphins and their habitats through trained DCN units.
It will also foster community-based "stewardship" conservation developed in selected priority dolphin habitats, providing alternate oil to the fishermen engaged in dolphin oil bait fishing, implementing targeted education and mass awareness campaigns among fishermen communities, and preventing illegal fishing during the fishing ban season in association with management authorities. These activities combined will help in the long-term conservation of dolphins in Brahmaputra river system.
Through the proposed activities, the project team are expecting increased community support to the dolphin and ecosystem conservation in 30 priority dolphin habitats. Another aim is to empower these communities to scientifically monitor dolphins and their habitats and to undertake actions for any observed threats by the community itself. Thirdly, Aaranyak will develop community conserved dolphin areas which can be replicated in other priority dolphin sites, reducing dolphin mortality through fishing net entanglement, reducing dolphin mortality for increased market demand for dolphin oil.
In general the aim is to increase awareness of dolphin and river ecosystem conservation among the general riverside communities and enhance the dolphin prey-base by awareness raising and monitoring of illegal fishing in association with local communities and management authorities.