Mediterranean common dolphin sightings in Israel

The Mediterranean subpopulation of common dolphins Delphinus delphis, is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Redlist.  As recently as 50 years ago, in the Mediterranean waters of Israel, short-beaked common dolphins were thought to be more common than bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus[1]; a conclusion that was based mainly on stranding records.  Today, common dolphin strandings are very rare in Israel reflecting their regional decline.  However, encouraging news is that over the last few years, there have been repeated sightings of large groups (for the region i.e. 10-80 individuals) of short-beaked common dolphins in Israeli waters.  The recent sightings occurred in the southern part of the region, and some were within the waters of the Gaza strip[2]. Purse-seining in Gaza waters has declined substantially since Israel imposed a naval blockade and common dolphins may have responded to a resultant increase in prey abundance. It is hoped that cooperative research and conservation efforts will one day lead to the recognition of this region as one deserving of special conservation measures for common dolphins (and other cetaceans).


[1] Bodenheimer, F.S. 1960. Animal and man in bible lands. Collection de Travaux de l’Académie Internationale d’Histoire des Sciences, No 10. E.J. Brill, Leiden

[2] see http://seamap.env.duke.edu/dataset/819

Three new wildlife sanctuaries for Ganges River and Irrawaddy dolphins declared by the Government of Bangladesh

The Government of Bangladesh recently declared three new wildlife sanctuaries for endangered freshwater dolphins in the world’s largest mangrove ecosystem – the Sundarbans. The sanctuaries, which were officially declared on January 29, will protect two species of freshwater dolphins: the Ganges River dolphin and the Irrawaddy dolphin. Although there is no global population estimate for either species, both have disappeared from major portions of their range. However, both species occur in the Sundarbans in sufficient numbers that it may serve as a global safety net for preventing their extinction.  The three wildlife sanctuaries safeguard 19.4 mi (31.4 km) of channels with a total area of 4.1 sq mi (10.7 sq km).  The locations and sizes of the sanctuaries in the Sundarbans were determined according to a study conducted by WCS and the Bangladesh Forest Department and published in the journal Oryx in 2010. The study found that the habitat of Ganges River and Irrawaddy dolphins were clumped in waterways where human activities are most intense.

The dolphins are threatened by fatal entanglements in fishing gear, depletion of their prey from the enormous by-catch of fish and crustaceans in fine-mesh “mosquito” nets used to catch fry for shrimp farming, and increasing salinity and sedimentation caused by sea-level rise and changes in the availability of freshwater river flow.  It is hoped that the new wildlife sanctuaries in the Sundarbans will also provide protection for other threatened aquatic wildlife including the river terrapin, masked finfoot, and small-clawed otter.

CSG Chair Randall R. Reeves awarded Citation of Excellence

Dr Randall R. Reeves, Chair of the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group, has been awarded the Species Survival Commission Chair’s Citation of Excellence. The award was given in recognition of his leadership of whale and dolphin conservation worldwide and his exceptional service as Chair of the SSC Cetacean Specialist Group over many years. The award was presented by Simon Stuart Chair of the Species Survival Commission at Meeting of SSC Chairs held in Abu Dhabi, February 2012. Randall Reeves has been the Chair of the IUCN Cetacean Specialist Group since 1997 and was Deputy Chair from 1992-1997.

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