Monday, July 16, 2012

Shocking Truth: The fatal reality of entanglement and bycatch for the Taiwan Pink Dolphins

Summer is here and once again researchers are out collecting data on the critically endangered Taiwan pink dolphins. In a few short years we've watched as best estimates have gone well below 99 for the total population with the likelihood of around 70 individuals being where this unique population is now at...or should we be saying, "was" because obviously that data is based on data from previous years.

At the 2007 international workshop on the pink dolphins scientists identified five major threats to the Taiwan pink dolphins:
- by-catch in fishing gear;
- reclamation of estuarine and coastal regions for industrial purposes;
- diversion and extraction of freshwater from major river systems of western Taiwan;
- release of industrial, agricultural and municipal effluent into rivers and coastal waters;
- noise and disturbance associated with construction, shipping and military activities.

We know what the threats and problems are. They are obvious and you really don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand that unless something is done about these dolphins now they are going to become extinct very quickly. The extinction of the Baiji in 2007 shows just how fast a dolphin species can become extinct. There is more than enough evidence to show that the situation is critical. If we don't act now it will be too late! But the powers-that-be aren't acting. They demand more evidence and data in what can only be seen as a stalling tactic and the only beneficiary of that are those milking the resources of the west coast; heavy industry and fisheries.

We know that entanglement and by-catch is taking a grim toll on these dolphins. Two dead pink dolphins have washed up on the west coast since September 2009. There are rumors of other instances where dolphins have been killed through by-catch but I hear you say, "Ah, those are rumours! Where's the proof?" But do we need such proof as that of a rotting carcass? We have two. There is overwhelming evidence that by-catch and entanglement is happening. The evidence is there for us to see. Because this occurs at sea there isn't always going to be a rotting carcass washed up on the beach. We can look at the the collected data and see that by-catch is happening and that unless something is done about it these dolphins are going to fall victim to the threat of by-catch so quickly that it would be unlikely they will survive another decade under the current onslaught. And it's happening so quickly that the data isn't going to show the trend until we are well and truly beyond the point of no return.

Here are some photos from this year:

TW-04 (aka "Humpy") was seen on 1st July sporting a new large scar on its tailstock (the deepest cut visible) probably from entanglement with gillnet.

This calf was seen in early June with the entangled line and hasn't been seen since).

TW-88 was seen in early July in the Yunlin/Chiayi area. The lines on the two animals look like monofilament lines (most likely from gillnets).

Given these and all the other photos collected over previous seasons do we really need to use collecting more data on by-catch and entanglement as an excuse for not acting now?

All photos are courtesy and copyright FormosaCetus.

Also see:
Another shocking wounded Pink Dolphin photo!

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