The numbers have now reduced to less than 30% of what actually was in 1982. Its population is estimated to be somewhere around 1,500 against 6,000 in 1982. By-catch mortality, construction of dams and water pollution caused by pesticides, fertilizers, and industrial effluents, being the prime culprits!
With the increase in public awareness about the risks that entail dolphin-poaching, the fishermen no longer try to hunt them down. Meat is no longer an incentive of dolphin-killings, said noted environmentalist and academician Dr Sunil Kumar Choudhary, who has done extensive fieldwork in and around Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary located in Bhagalpur district of Bihar.
Plight of the fishermen
Describing fishermen as the most impoverished community in the entire south Asia, Dr Choudhary told The TrickyScribe that dolphin oil is the main incentive when it comes to dolphin-killings. Elaborating further, he said that no fisherman risks his boat and fishing net as they attract confiscation as soon as the matter comes to light. With the ‘boat and net’ being the breadwinners for them, they no longer “chase” the dolphins anymore.
By-catch mortality has become one of the major issues responsible for the rapid declining of the already endangered Gangetic dolphins, the National Aquatic Animal of India.
Research conducted by a group of French scientists in European Atlantic waters concurs with Dr Choudhary and reveals that unprecedented numbers of common dolphins have died and stranded this year as a result of by-catch i.e. the accidental entanglement in fishing nets and gear.
Trade of dolphin oil
Although not established scientifically, it is believed in south Asia that dolphin oil is a natural cure for nerve-disorders besides being a substitute for painkillers. Market rate oscillates between Rs 350-500, a litre, informed sources said.
That apart, it has been confirmed by the fishing communities that the oil, when mixed with fish feed, accelerates productivity. Experts claim that the mixture ensures the day’s fishing in less than a couple of hours. Its obnoxious odour notwithstanding, the oil actually attracts fishes. Here is the problem!
Had the dolphin oil only been smuggled, lot many administrative and logistical methods could’ve been deployed to curb the menace. Utilization at the source makes the picture gloomy. Fearing action against themselves, the fishermen hardly report by-catch deaths of dolphins and use the carcass themselves, making the numbers sketchy.