Fishing for the facts: river dolphin bycatch in a small-scale freshwater fishery in Bangladesh

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Fisheries bycatch is a primary driver of cetacean declines, especially for threatened freshwater cetaceans. However, information on the factors influencing cetacean susceptibility to bycatch in small‐scale fisheries is limited, impeding development of evidence‐based conservation strategies. We conducted 663 interviews with fishers from southern Bangladesh to investigate the influence of net and set characteristics on seasonal bycatch rates of Ganges River dolphins Platanista gangetica gangetica and assess the sustainability of annual mortality levels. Between October 2010–October 2011, 170 bycatch events (and a minimum of 14 mortalities) were reported, 89% of which occurred in gillnets. The probability of bycatch increased as water depth declined, and as net mesh size increased. While the number of recorded bycatch incidents was higher in gillnets, risk of mortality was greater in set bagnets. Our mortality estimate indicates that fisheries‐related bycatch currently exceeds the sustainable limit recommended by the International Whaling Commission by 3.5 times. Numerous regulations have been developed to improve the productivity of commercially important fisheries, and if regulations were effectively enforced, these may also reduce river dolphin bycatch.


  • Ganges River dolphin, Platanista gangetica gangetica, bycatch, freshwater cetaceans, gillnet, interview data, local informant data, small-scale fisheries
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-170
JournalAnimal Conservation
Issue number2
Early online date1 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020

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