Global Support Coalition for River Dolphins

Posted on 30 October 2023

Collaborating to secure the long-term future of river dolphins and their rivers, and the communities who depend on them

Following the historic Global Declaration for River Dolphins that was adopted by 11 Asian and South American range states, a number of organisations, all of which have worked for many years to conserve river dolphins, and/or their rivers, have formed a coalition to help the sharing of knowledge and expertise, and to ensure synergies in our efforts to secure a viable future for river dolphins, their rivers, and the communities who depend on them.

The aim of the coalition is to stop, by 2030, the decline of river dolphin populations in Asia and South America, and be on track to double the most threatened populations. With this global and coordinated alliance, we will help protect river dolphins and their habitats, while improving riverine community livelihoods, community participation, ecosystem services, climate resilience, and water quality for the benefit of people and nature.

Our approach is to work together to:

  • address those threats to river dolphins and their rivers that are most immediate and severe:
    • Fisheries-related mortality and unsustainable fishing; bycatch is the number one cause of river dolphin mortality worldwide, which together with intentional killing of river dolphins for fish bait and meat, affects several thousand dolphins per year. River dolphin bycatch and unsustainable fishing occur during both legal and illegal fishing activities, and will need creativity if they are to be addressed, whilst ensuring viable livelihoods for riverine communities.
    • Man-made infrastructure; hydropower dams, irrigation barrages and embankments all affect habitat connectivity, and the quantity and quality of water. In Asia, river dolphin habitat has decreased by 50-70%, and in South America by 10%. It is key for such infrastructure projects to be nature positive and river dolphin sensitive.
    • Water quality; mining, agriculture, and industrial activities can all degrade water quality. Deteriorating water quality due to agriculture runoff and industrial effluents is a serious threat to dolphins in Asia, while mercury poisoning due to gold mining has been found in dolphins in both Asia and South America.
    • Low public awareness of river dolphins, including their critically endangered status.
  • support the range country governments to implement the Global Declaration or River Dolphins signed on October 24th 2023;
  • help secure funds to implement the Declaration commitments: national, bilateral & multilateral funding;
  • share and build our knowledge and skills at every opportunity.

Our Coalition Agreement

You can find details of our Agreement and founder members here.

Join us!
The Coalition warmly welcomes new participants. If you are interested, please use the ‘Contact us’ link on this website. Together, we can bend the curve for  river dolphins!


The coalition members agree on the following priorities:

1. To effectively manage, conserve, protect, and restore river dolphin habitats, including:

  • Creating a network of protected river habitats.
    • Improving the protection and profile of river dolphin habitats, including those on
    • Indigenous lands, thereby creating a network of river habitats under conservation management.
  • Increasing river dolphin site-management effectiveness.

Strengthening protected habitat management, basing it on:

  • Regular monitoring of river dolphins, and the use of advanced research tools to support conservation.
  • Building capacity of institutions involved in science and training and supporting the creation of an interactive platform for knowledge exchange at all levels.

2. To drive river dolphin research and threat monitoring: working collaboratively on transboundary
research opportunities, which may include, but is not limited to, tracking movements, population
abundance monitoring, and acoustic monitoring.

3. To eradicate fishing practices that are harmful to river dolphins, and unsustainable fishing, while
ensuring sustainable livelihoods for fishers: working collaboratively to eradicate fishing practices that
negatively affect the survival of river dolphins, through injuries and deaths caused by net
entanglement and illegal fishing (i.e. electrofishing, poisoning), through non-accidental deaths (e.g.
usage for fishing-bait), and through overfishing, by:

  • Sharing knowledge, experience and technology.
  • Strengthening national fisheries legislation, institutions, and law enforcement.
  • Engaging with Indigenous and/or local fishing communities to work closely together on biodiversity conservation, on minimising negative impacts on river dolphins, their prey and habitats, and on reducing conflicts by enabling sustainable and alternative livelihood options.

4. To engage with international, and domestic industries to tackle water quality and quantity issues
that affect river dolphin, fisheries, and community health, by:

  • Strengthening national water quality legislation, institutions, and law enforcement to ensure water quality standards that enable river dolphins and communities to thrive
  • Supporting industries and municipalities to reduce their water use (allocation) and the use of harmful chemicals, and to increase waste water treatment by providing financial and technical support.

5. To build river dolphin conservation awareness by promoting and celebrating Global River Dolphin
Day annually in October, as part of a long-term national and global programme to create awareness
of the value of river cetaceans and their wild habitats.

6. To make the above possible, appealing for the commitment of international financial institutions,
to provide and/or mobilise financial and technical support for river dolphin conservation.
Example areas of coordination include, but are not limited to:

  • Taking action together to:
    • support implementation of the Global River Dolphin Declaration and associated pledges, including identification of projects we can work on together, and identification and engagement of key stakeholders;
    • implement a united and fast response to crises and emergency situations;
    • implement joint communications, public engagement, and campaigns;
    • liaise on fundraising opportunities.
  • Sharing knowledge and information by:
    • sharing literature and news, including using the website;
    • sharing technology;
    • participating in each others’ webinars and other information sharing and learning events;
    • sharing and aligning data;
    • translation of key documents into multiple languages
Counting river dolphins on the Amazon river
Founder members of the Global Coalition to Support River Dolphins
Pinger training for local fishers on Mahakam river in Indonesia to help save river dolphins
© yk-rasi