Dolphin count surges in Gahirmatha but Dips in Chilika

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Dolphin count surges in Gahirmatha but Dips in Chilika

  • The dolphin population along Odisha’s coast and in its water bodies has increased but the number of Irrawaddy dolphins in Chilika lake has fallen.

The population of dolphins in Odisha has increased from 544 in 2021 to 726 this year, revealed the annual dolphin census carried out recently. The report, released on March 30, stated that Gahirmatha is home to the State’s largest population of dolphins, even more than Chilika.

About the Dolphins found in Chilika Lake region

Indo- Pacific Bottlenose dolphinsLives in the waters around India, northern Australia, South China, the Red Sea, and the eastern coast of Africa. IUCN status: Near Threatened
Indian Ocean Humpback dolphinsThe Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphin occurs within the Indian Ocean from South Africa to India. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorizes the Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphin as Endangered Indian Humpback Dolphin is listed in Appendix I of The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Irrawaddy dolphinsIrrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) are found in coastal areas in South and Southeast Asia, and in three rivers: the Irrawaddy (Myanmar), the Mahakam (Indonesian Borneo) and the Mekong (China). They are ‘Endangered’ as per the IUCN Red List.
Spinner DolphinSpinner dolphins live in large pods from a few dozen to a thousand or more in tropical and subtropical zones around the world. They are the most abundant dolphin species in the Indian Ocean. The spinner dolphin is a rare mammal in Odisha as it is an offshore species and is found in deeper waters as part of large schools. IUCN Red list: Least Concern (LC)
Indo-Pacific Finless PorpoiseThe species ranges throughout most of the Indian Ocean, as well as the tropical and subtropical Pacific from Indonesia north to the Taiwan Strait. IUCN Red list: Vulnerable

Threats to Dolphin Population

  • Pollution: Dolphins face a number of threats such as dumping of single-use plastics in water bodies, industrial pollution, and fishing.
  • Restrictive Flow of Water: Increasing number of barrages and dams also affect their population as such structures impede the flow of water.
  • Poaching: Dolphins are also poached for their flesh, fat, and oil, which is used as a prey to catch fish, as an ointment and as a supposed aphrodisiac.
  • Shipping & Dredging: Dolphins use echolocation to navigate and hunt.
    • Like bats, they produce high-frequency sounds which helps them to detect objects when the sound waves bounce off them.
    • Due to their dependence on echolocation, the dolphins also suffer from the noise pollution created by large ship propellers, and by dredging.
  • Bycatch: Dolphins favour areas of the river where fish are plentiful and the water current is slower.
    • This has led to fewer fish for people and more dolphins dying as a result of accidentally being caught in fishing nets, also known as bycatch.
  • Dynamite fishing: Blast fishing, fish bombing, or dynamite fishing is a destructive fishing practice using explosives to stun or kill schools of fish for easy collection.

Progress so far to save the species:

  • The Indian Government has taken a plethora of initiatives to conserve the species. Some of the significant ones are as follows:
    • Wildlife Protection Act: This was aimed at checking hunting and providing conservation facilities such as wildlife sanctuaries. For instance, Vikramshila Ganges Dolphin Sanctuary was established in Bihar under this Act.
  • Conservation Action Plan: The government also prepared The Conservation Action Plan for the Ganges River Dolphin 2010-2020, which “identified threats to Gangetic Dolphins and impact of river traffic, irrigation canals and depletion of prey-base on Dolphins populations”.
    • National Dolphin Research Centre (NDRC): The NDRC is coming up on the 4,400 square metre plot of land on the premises of Patna University for the conservation of the endangered Gangetic river dolphin. Dolphin Sanctuary: Vikramshila Dolphin Sanctuary has been established in Bihar.

Project Dolphin - an applaudable effort

  • The initiative got in-principle approval in 2019 at the first meeting of the National Ganga Council (NGC), headed by the Prime Minister.
  • Project Dolphin is one of the activities planned under Arth Ganga, an ambitious inter-ministerial initiative of the government approved in 2019.
  • Project Dolphin will be on the lines of Project Tiger, which has helped increase the tiger population.
  • It is expected to be implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

Suggestive measures

  • The Indian Government has a long distance to cover till it reaches the milestone of ensuring a robust dolphin conservation mechanism. Some of the suggestive measures that the Government could take are as follows:
  • River cleaning: on the lines of River Ganga should be promoted so that a clean and habitable ecosystem is ensured for their survival.
  • Regulation of machine boats and trawlers: A regulated and limited traffic of boats in areas where dolphins are in abundance should be ensured.
  • Improved technology: Boats capturing fish should produce less sounds so as to not interfere in communication signals of dolphins.
  • Dolphin Mitras: There should be a dedicated staff of “Dolphin mitras” who converge their entire energy towards the cause of dolphin conservation.
  • Community led Bio-monitoring- Training local communities and stakeholder to keep proper surveillance against illegal poaching.
  • Dolphins lie at the top of the aquatic ecological pyramid. They are designated as creatures of national importance. Also they are an Indicator Species that denote the purity and pollution levels of surrounding waters. These human -friendly creatures also facilitate promotion of ecotourism. They are also crucial in maintaining the ecological balance of nature. Hence, it becomes important to conserve them.

Exam Track

Prelims takeaway

  • Project Dolphin
  • Various dominant DOlphin species in India
  • Location based questions

Mains track Q. Indian government has been very active in conserving dolphins in India. Discuss the various steps taken by the government and also suggest some measures.