The goal of river dolphin conservation is to protect and maintain healthy populations of river dolphins in their natural habitats. The most effective way to protect a population is to remove threats that can directly or indirectly cause reduced fitness or deaths. For example, several populations of large whales were able to rebound as soon as the threat of large scale hunting was removed through the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium on commercial whaling. More recently, harbour porpoise populations off the coast of California have increased significantly since gillnets were removed from their habitats.
Where threats cannot be removed entirely because human populations’ food security and livelihoods depend on certain activities, managers, scientists, communities, industries and a range of other stakeholders can work together to find ways to reduce or mitigate threats. This requires collaboration, creativity, and investment.
This section is intended to provide an overview of the main threats to river dolphins, as well as the strategies that have been used to help eliminate or mitigate these threats in different river basins. While stakeholders around the globe are working hard to come up with strategies to reduce and mitigate threats, and several examples are shared here, it is important to understand that as long as threatening processes or actions persist, they will continue to pose a level of risk to river dolphin populations. To understand how significant this risk is, and the impact it may be having on populations, it is important to maintain a rigorous programme of research and monitoring. Similarly, research and monitoring can be used to measure the successes of conservation measures, such as the 50% increase in Indus river dolphin numbers documented in Pakistan between 2001 and 2017.
Click on the links below to learn more about threats to river dolphins, and the strategies that have been used to address those threats.