Ecology and Conservation of the La Plata dolphin in Argentina

The La Plata or Franciscana dolphin is among the world’s smallest and most endangered dolphins, endemic to the coastal Atlantic waters off South America. They are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and are on the IUCN red list of endangered species. Over the last 30 years tens of thousands of these small and very shy dolphins have been killed as incidental bycatch in the long, small-meshed gillnets of local fishermen.

Pablo Bordino is the Director of a local Argentinean environmental organisation, Fundacion AquaMarine, an NGO dedicated to protecting the marine environment in Argentina. Pablo works with local artisinal fishermen along the coast of the Buenos Aires Province in Argentina to prevent the incidental catch and subsequent deaths of the La Plata dolphin. At least 500 of these small and very shy dolphins are killed in long gillnets every year. The total population of the dolphin, its breeding, social and feeding habits, are unknown. Pablo has set up a project which he hopes will ensure the survival of this species by studying the dolphin’s natural habitat, working to overcome the problems with the fishing nets, and establishing marine reserves along the Buenos Aires Province coast.

Most of the coastal area off the Buenos Aires province is over-fished. Pablo Bordino believes that by targeting a ‘flagship’ species such as the La Plata Dolphin could serve to greatly protect the entire marine coastal habitat and biodiversity.

PROJECT UPDATE

Pablo Bordino received a Rufford Small Grant in 2001 to support his work with Fundacion AquaMarine and the La Plata dolphin.

In 2002, Pablo received Continuation Funding. This has enabled Pablo to investigate the use of acoustic devices on fishing nets in an attempt to reduce the number of dolphins caught as bycatch. His initial work is revealing that by creating ‘pinger’ noises to warn the dolphins of the location of the nets, the number of dolphins accidentally killed can be reduced. The acoustic devices show promise, and now need to be assessed against other methods of bycatch reduction.

In March 2004, the project began radio-satellite telemetry studies on the La Plata dolphins to understand the home range of the species and movement patterns in one of the most critical areas for the species in Argentina.

Full winners list