A Rare Dolphin fallen Victim to Blast Fishing

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An eight and a half feet fully matured female indo-pacific humpback dolphin, suspected to be killed by dynamiting in Puttalum Lagoon, found washed ashore at Kalpitya on 13-02-2011.

National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) say this particular dolphin is recorded by NARA scientist on August 2004. This individual has been identified by the “scar” that it has just behind the dorsal fin which is reminiscence of a propeller cut or a nylon rope burn. Entangling with the fishing nets often left the dolphins with permanent scars, and sometime they succumb to injury. However, this particular dolphin, known to researchers for a period of at least five years, remained with at least three scars from entangling of net from different periods.

The indo-pacific humpback dolphin is a critically endangered marine mammal in the world with an IUCN status as “Critically Endangered”. The global population of the indo-pacific humpback dolphin is rapidly dwindling. Indo-pacific humpback dolphin is the only cetaceans that enter into estuarine waters and this particular dolphin is recorded in the Puttalum Estuary, among the pod of six dolphins during the successive years according to NARA.

This female Dolphin constituted the only pod of indo-pacific humpback dolphin, so far recorded in Sri Lanka as per the researchers. The pod was frequently seen around Kalpitiya up to Uchchimuni. However, during the early part of this year this dolphin is found alone and frequenting the Kalpity Narrow. On 13-02-2011, this dolphin carcass washed ashore and found profusely bleeding from the mouth and eyes, which is a clear indication of death due to dynamiting.

as seen in 2004 alive

Last year a pair of rare Dugongs were also been killed as a result of Dynamite fishing. Dynamitefishing also known as blast fishing is a practice of using explosives to stun or kill schools of fish for easy collection. Underwater shock waves produced by these explosions stun the fish and cause their swim bladders causing an abrupt loss of buoyancy. So the fish floats in the surface, which allows fishermen to collect them easier. “But it is only a small number of fish floats, where most sink to the sea floor” says experts pointing out the disruptive nature of this illegal fishing method.

Blast fishing is also extremely destructive to coral reefs too. The fish density is often higher in and around Coral Reefs, so fishermen found this an easier opportunity. But the Coral Reefs are the breeding ground of fish and dynamite fishing affects all the near shore fishing community. Blast fishing can also be dangerous to divers who dive in vicinity of these sites.

Though it is banned in Sri Lanka, some of the fishermen in many areas use this fishing method. The dynamite issues for commercial purposes such as quarry operations are the main source of these explosives, but some also questions other methods these illegal fishermen used to gain access to dynamites. Free access to dynamite is also a dangerous situation where the explosives can be used for other purposes. Navy can play a big part this fight to stop dynamite fishing, points out the experts.

The traditional fish communities too are against this method of fishing as Blast Fishing also affects their livelihood. So the traditional fishermen too call the authorities to enforce the law to stop Dynamite fishing before many more rare creatures like this humpback dolphin perish.

published on SundayTimes on 27.02.2011

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