Environmental degradation along the Irrawaddy River is to blame for declining fisheries, as are fishermen who use electrical shockers to boost their catches, affecting the river’s small Irrawaddy dolphin population in ways both direct and indirect.
“Fishermen nowadays use high-voltage electrical shockers to get more fish, and this is how some dolphins get directly shocked and die. For some, they are only slightly shocked, but later die as a result,” said KyawHlaThein from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Burma program, who is involved in Irrawaddy dolphin conservation efforts on the river.
According to the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which is working jointly with Myanmar’s Department of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development for the preservation of Irrawaddy dolphins, the population of a designated protection zone in the upper region of the Irrawaddy River is in decline.
In early 2012, WCS said the total population stood at around 86 dolphins, but by January of this year it had fallen to an estimated 63.
The area, between the riverside towns of KyaukMyaung and Mingun in Sagaing Division, spans about 230 miles (370 km) of freshwater in which Irrawaddy dolphins can be found, and was established as a protection zone in 2005.