Breathing space for Amazon river dolphins
Posted on 23 June 2020
Brazil extends moratorium on fishing for piracatinga, which are often caught using river dolphins as bait
River dolphins across Brazil have a little extra breathing space after the government suddenly extended a moratorium on fishing for piracatinga for another year.
The ban was imposed in 2015 to help halt the decline of Amazon river dolphins, since these iconic animals have often been captured and used as bait to catch piracatinga - a species of catfish that is attracted to rotting carcases.
This unexpected decision represents real cause for cheer for the South American River Dolhin Initiative (SARDI), which is working to reverse the decline in the population of these endangered cetaceans. Catching river dolphins for bait is one of the key factors in the ongoing decline of river dolphin numbers across the Amazon and Orinocco rivers.
“For so many reasons, we need to conserve river dolphins,” said Fernando Trujillo, scientific director of the Fundacion Omacha. “Living dolphins can produce more money than dead ones for local communities through ecotourism.”
Along with the new moratorium in Brazil, Colombia maintains a ban on the piracatinga trade because of high levels of mercury contamination in the fish. Mercury is widely used by artisanal and small-scale gold miners.
Eventually, the hope is that all river dolphin range states in South America will align their laws to restrict trade in piracatinga - to help reduce the impact on river dolphin populations.