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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dolphins help fishermen catch fish in Brazil and Myanmar

Certain bottlenose dolphins in Laguna, southern Brazil, have apparently taught themselves to work as a team with artisanal fishermen, creating a win-win for both the marine mammals and humans. 

Fábio Daura-Jorge

An interesting story of cooperation between bottlenose dolphins and fishermen in Brazil. The dolphins are not trained. They just CHOOSE to round up the fish and then alert fishremen with signals so they know when and where to cast their nets. Turns out it is a win-win situation for both. The fishermen get a good catch and the dolphins hang around waiting for the ones that get away. 

The lead author Fabio Daura-Jorge of the Federal University of Santa Catarina states that "through highly synchronized behavior with humans, cooperative dolphins in Laguna drive mullet schools towards a line of fishermen and 'signal,' via stereotyped head slaps or tail slaps, when and where fishermen should throw their nets". 

Reminds me of a talk I heard by Tint Tun who described a similar situation where Irawaddy dolphins helped fishermen in a section of Myanmar's Irawaddy river. This species is critically endangered in some parts of its range (including Myanmar). Drowning in gillnets is the main threat to them throughout their range

Historically, Irrawaddy River fishers claimed particular dolphins were associated with individual fishing villages and chased fish into their nets. An 1879 report indicated legal claims were frequently brought into native courts by fishers to recover a share of the fish from the nets of a rival fisher which the plaintiff's dolphin was claimed to have helped fill.

For more information on this story visit Tint's website and download the reports he has prepared on the subject http://sites.google.com/site/tinttunmm/irrawaddydolphin.

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