National Species Action Plans for river dolphins, also known as National Conservation Action Plans, help to align conservation efforts within a country, thereby increasing their effectiveness. These Action Plans should be:

  • Based on a foundation of shared knowledge and include a wide range of stakeholders in both their design and implementation. In the South American situation, all national plans are well-aligned and based on the same regional South American Action Plan. Stakeholders include government agencies, research institutions, NGOs and communities;
  • Reviewed every 5-10 years to ensure management adapts to changing knowledge, opportunities and threats;
  • Able to cover more than one species that benefit from the same protection measures;
  • Designed to include awareness-raising and education activities where applicable, and the participation of local communities in implementing conservation measures;
  • Clear about who is responsible for implementing and monitoring the Action Plan, ideally involving multiple stakeholders such as the Technical Support Group (GAT) in Brazil, which is composed of a mix of government officials and other experts; and
  • Underpinned by sustainable funding mechanisms for their implementation, including private-public partnerships.


Rationale: How do National Species Action Plans help to protect river dolphins?

Although local communities and regional and international initiatives are important for river dolphin conservation, national governments have a fundamental role to play to enact effective policies and laws for addressing the multiple threats to river dolphin populations found within their jurisdiction. Although laws can be enacted piecemeal in reaction to new information or threats that arise, conservation at the national level will be much more effective if it is proactive and led by a cohesive vision, rather than if it is purely reactive. National  Species Action Plans provide an effective mechanism to bring different stakeholders together to develop a shared vision for river dolphin conservation. Plans often include the following broad elements, which require the inputs and expertise of different stakeholders, ranging from government agencies to research institutions, NGOs and local communities:

  • Research and monitoring – to determine the conservation status and conservation needs of the target species;
  • Community engagement – including awareness raising and education to ensure buy-in and participation from those who have local knowledge and share their resources with river dolphins;
  • Proposed actions and policies to address the most pressing threats to river dolphins, including those from fishing, water infrastructure and navigation, water pollution, and extraction and mining;
  • A clear structure for implementation, designating which stakeholders are responsible for implementation, monitoring and oversight of different elements of the plan; and
  • A supporting legal framework (in the form of decrees or statutes) that allows elements of the plan to be enforced. This can include laws that designate protected status to river dolphins (with corresponding penalties for hunting or harming), designation of protected areas, fisheries regulations, establishment of water quality standards, and other regulations to protect river dolphin habitat.


The table below lists many of the National Action Plans that are in place in countries that host river dolphin populations, and provides hyperlinks to their Action Plans to allow users to look at them in more detail.

All South American river dolphin range countries have National Action Plans in place that encompass river dolphins, providing guidelines and direction for conservation efforts for policy makers, researchers, funders and NGOs. These South American action plans are based on the Regional Action Plan for South American River Dolphins 2010-2020 to ensure harmony between approaches used in different parts of shared river basins.

Table of National Action Plans

Country and title Primary stakeholders Core elements of the Action Plan

Conservation Action Plan for Ganges River Dolphin and Irrawaddy Dolphin of Bangladesh 2020-2030

  • Bangladesh Forest Department
  • Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change
  • Recognises Ganges river dolphins and Irrawaddy dolphins as indicator species for river health
  • Initiates the Expanding the Protected Areas System to Incorporate Important Aquatic Ecosystems (EPASIIAE) project
  • Assesses threats to species, including fisheries, hunting for bait, water infrastructure and navigation
  • Outlines 26 strategic action points to address threats, including priority research and monitoring

National Plan for the conservation of the Bolivian River Dolphin (Inia boliviensis) 2012-2016

  • Scientists and government authorities
  • Designation by law of the Bolivian river dolphin as ‘Natural Heritage’
  • Inclusion of Bolivia in the species name created a sense of ownership and pride
  • Highly participatory process involving public and private stakeholders at the national and regional level
  • Uses national instruments such as the Red Book of Vertebrate Wildlife of Bolivia and the Strategy for Conservation of the Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Bolivia

National Action Plan for Amazonian Aquatic Mammals

  • Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio)
  • Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA)
  • NGOs
  • Scientists
Aims to:
  • Reduce conflicts between aquatic mammals and fisheries;
  • Reduce the pressure of poaching on aquatic mammals;
  • Promote the integrity of critical habitats for aquatic mammals;
  • Increase knowledge of population dynamics, ecology, interactions with humans and health of aquatic mammals; and
  • Promote environmental education and engage the society on the conservation of aquatic mammals and influencing public policies.

Yangtze River Finless Porpoises Rescue Action Plan (2016-2025)

  • Ministry of Agriculture
  • On-site protection
  • Relocation protection
  • Genetic protection of the porpoise

Colombia National River Dolphin Action Plan 2010-2020

  • Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development
  • Omacha Foundation
  • Research and monitoring (threats, production of knowledge on the species and their population distribution, consolidation of information)
  • Sustainable management (reduction of threats, appropriation and management of aquatic mammals by local communities, ex situ rehabilitation management of aquatic mammals)
  • Information and communication (threats, production of knowledge, database of aquatic mammals, appropriation and management of aquatic mammals by local communities)
  • Education, training and participation
  • Regulatory policies and strengthening of institutions (identification of gaps, training)

Ecuadorian Action Plan


  • Ministry of Environment 
  • Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
  • Omacha Foundation
  • World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
  • Contribute to the conservation of critical habitats for aquatic mammals in the Ecuadorian Amazon
  • Develop research and monitoring projects for populations of aquatic mammals in areas where there is no information available, in areas where there is information and in places with higher anthropogenic pressure
  • Design and implement actions in order to mitigate the threats to the conservation of aquatic mammals in the Ecuadorian Amazon
  • Generate mechanisms of information and communication of the advancements on the knowledge about the ecology of aquatic mammals, ensuring that the data necessary for decision making are available and that material for raising awareness of the general public are accessible
  • Strengthen the collaboration, coordination and interinstitutional management between government entities, NGOs and local communities that are in charge of implementing the Action plan for the conservation of aquatic mammals in Ecuadorian Amazon

The Conservation Action Plan for the Gangetic Dolphin 2010-2020.

  • Ministry of Environment and Forests
  • An overview of the current status of the species in India and an assessment of known threats (including photographs and illustrations to make the document clearer and more accessible to non-technical stakeholders)
  • Key actions to address threats, including the establishment of protected areas, promoting rescue and release, managing future dolphin tourism; reducing environmental tourism, etc
  • Estimates of the required budget for each action, designation of a timeframe for its implementation, and assignment of each action to the relevant government agency

Management plan for the Ayeyarwady dolphin protected area

  • Department of Fisheries 
  • WCS
Actions and activities to: 
  • dramatically reduce or eliminate illegal fishing activities; 
  • promote the long-term sustainability of the human-dolphin cooperative cast-net fishery; 
  • protect aquatic habitat; 
  • promote sustainable fisheries; 
  • strengthen the Ayeyarwady Dolphin Protected Area management team and infrastructure; 
  • monitor the status of dolphins in the Ayeyarwady Dolphin Protected Area.

Nepal dolphin conservation action plan 2021-5

  • Department of Forests and Soil Conservation
  • Department of National Parks and wildlife Conservation
  • Enhance the understanding and knowledge of conservation status, ecology, and habitat dynamics of dolphins
  • Protect and manage the dolphin population and their habitat
  • Strengthen and extend participatory dolphin conservation programs
  • Strengthen cooperation and coordination of dolphin conservation at the national and international level

National Action Plan for the Conservation of river dolphins (Inia geoffrensis and Sotalia fluviatilis) and the Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis) in Peru – PAN River dolphin and Amazonian manatee – Peru

  • Government agencies 
  • NGOs (e.g. Solinia, Omacha Foundation, CREA, WWF and Prodelphinus)
  • A system of for data collection and archiving
  • Scientific research applied to biological, ecological and population studies and threats
  • Legislation and regulatory measures to strengthen monitoring and surveillance, regulation of rescue centers, instruments for conservation and indirect use of the species
  • Promotion of conservation, dissemination of the Action Plan, raising awareness among diverse sectors of society (government, general public, public and private institutions) about the conservation of river dolphins and manatees, and training relevant institutions regarding the activities listed on the plan

National Action Plan for the Conservation of Venezuelan Aquatic Mammals: freshwater dolphins, otters and manatees

  • Multiple government agencies
  • Multiple academic institutions (universities)
  • Several NGOs
  • Based on the ‘Assess-Plan-Act’ cycle promoted by the IUCN to ensure that management is adaptive
  • Involves a wide range of stakeholders, including academic institutions, NGOs and government agencies
  • Includes a decision tree analysis of threats and actions to address them
  • Clearly designates how stakeholders at all levels, from civil society to international bodies like CITES and RAMSAR, can play a role in implementing the plan