The Amazon river dolphin faces extinction now that a 5-year moratorium on piracatinga fishing has lapsed.
The dolphin — also known as the pink river dolphin or boto — is the largest of the world’s freshwater dolphins and lives in the Amazon and Orinoco river systems.
Even though they’re classified as “endangered” and protected by Brazilian law, poachers have targeted the boto to use their blubber as bait to catch a catfish called piracatinga — which are attracted to the scent of rotting flesh.
Piracatinga fishing provides significant income for fishermen and the Fishermen’s Union in the State of Amazonas has fought to shorten the moratorium since it started.
The problem is … female boto only reproduce every 3 to 5 years and the long gestation period makes it difficult for the species to replace itself in the face of different challenges.
“I believe [the lack of a moratorium] could make them extinct,” Dr. Vera da Silva, a researcher for the Amazon research institute, told Mongabay.
Da Silva’s studies reveal that the Amazon river dolphin population in Brazil is halving every decade.
Prosecutors in the Amazonas state originally asked for the moratorium in 2015, warning that as many as 2,500 dolphins were being killed illegally each year for bait.
The moratorium has yet to be renewed by the Jair Bolsonaro administration, which has undermined many of Brazil’s environmental laws.
Experts fear that the Amazon river dolphin could face a similar fate to the China Yangtze river dolphin, which was driven to official extinction following years of overfishing, pollution, and habitat degradation.
At Karmagawa, we’re heartbroken that a whole species is in danger because of human consumption and money. We’ll continue to bring stories like this to light so that we can inspire change.
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