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Atlantic humpback dolphins – Senegal

Researching and reducing threats to Senegal’s marine mammals and turtles.

There are only 1,500 Atlantic humpback dolphins, or Sousa teuzsii left on Earth. Only found along the west coast of Africa, they are critically endangered and in desperate need of our protection. We need to stop them becoming the first dolphin species to be hunted and eaten to extinction, so we’re funding a project in Senegal to save them.

Along the coast of Senegal, Atlantic humpback dolphins and other dolphins and whales as well as manatees and marine turtles face a barrage of threats including hunting, entanglement in fishing nets, pollution and prey depletion.

People in Senegal have traditionally been reluctant to eat dolphins but rapid human population growth and declining fish catches are making dolphin meat more attractive, and dolphins accidentally caught in fishing nets are increasingly sold commercially. These pressures are likely to increase as human populations expand.

To save the dolphins, we need a collaborative, community-based approach that includes all threatened marine species. So, we have partnered with African Aquatic Conservation Fund (AACF) who are based in Senegal where they have worked in wildlife research and conservation for over 25 years, and currently have collaborative projects and partnerships in ten African countries.

 

 

The project

Our project combines field research with community and stakeholder outreach to benefit wildlife and people. Our research will increase understanding of the threats faced by dolphins, whales, sea turtles and manatees in Senegal, whilst our community outreach will reduce these threats, providing local communities with opportunities to participate in conservation and learn about the dangers of eating marine mammals and turtles.

We have learnt that appreciation of the need to protect the marine environment and the wildlife who live in it is in its infancy in Senegal and so the time is right to increase awareness. We know that changing people’s attitudes and behaviour around hunting marine wildlife will take a long-term effort, which we are committed to. We also know that involving local communities from the outset is paramount to ensuring that they are both empowered to protect the marine environment, and aware of how their positive actions to reduce entanglements in fishing nets will benefit them.

Our partnership brings both local and global expertise to the problem and tackles it through a combination of research, education, training and conservation activities.

Atlantic humpback dolphin school education
Educational outreach in local schools. © Pearson McGovern

What we are doing

  • Expanding educational sessions with communities, schools and other stakeholders (e.g. fishing companies, Protected Areas rangers etc. - to beyond the central coast and empowering communities to make informed decisions about eating marine mammal and turtle meat including contaminant dangers for human health, Senegalese conservation law and the species’ importance in maintaining productive marine ecosystems
  • Working to reverse the growing acceptability of consuming whale, dolphin, manatee and turtle meat and stop the opportunistic consumption of dolphins caught in fishing nets turning into illegal intentional hunts
  • Partnering with fishing companies to educate fishers about protected species, working with fishers to document and reduce entanglements in fishing nets and incentivising releases when marine mammals and turtles do get trapped, and reducing hunting
  • Engage with the Ministry of Environment (Water and Forestry, Marine Protected Areas, National Parks) and the Ministry of Fisheries to grow their awareness of the problems facing marine mammals and turtles, increase their understanding of how existing laws are enforced and improve their application
  • Conducting beach surveys and establishing reporting networks and a rapid response team to record stranded marine mammals and turtles along Senegal’s entire coastline. By collecting stranding information throughout the year over multiple years, we are will be able to estimate of trends in mortality by species, season, and cause (fisheries bycatch, offshore gas exploration, natural, etc.). It’s also a way to assess temporal trends of biodiversity of cetaceans and marine turtles, to detect any unusual mortality events (UMEs), and to estimate the impact of human activities in real time in Senegalese waters.

THANK YOU TO OUR SUPPORTERS

We’re hoping to save a species but we wouldn’t have got this vital project off the ground without the generous donations and funding from our friends and partners. The pilot stage of this project was funded by the UK government through The Darwin Initiative, while donations from The Yogscast's Jingle Jam 2020 fundraiser enabled us to continue our vital work - both here in the UK and in West Africa - to protect the Atlantic humpback dolphins, including buying a much-needed 4x4 vehicle for the field team.

Small cetacean report

SMALL CETACEANS, BIG PROBLEMS

A global review of the impacts of hunting on small whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Read our in-depth report into the hunting of small whales and dolphins around the world.

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