Yangtze Fishermen Educational Campaign: Baiji River Dolphin and Finless Porpoise – Flagships for Freshwater Ecosystem Conservation, China

The polluted Yangtze River in China supports millions of people in poverty who are dependent on the river for all their washing, drinking and nutritional needs. Barely surviving is also the critically endangered Baiji River Dolphin and Finless Porpoise. Over-fishing using unsustainable methods such as dynamite has degraded the river and reduced fish stocks to the detriment of both wildlife and the people who fish the river system.

Dr. Xianfeng Zhang is determined to improve fishing practices and prevent the extinction of the dolphins by launching a targeted educational campaign to raise awareness of the plight of these two highly vulnerable cetacean species. The project focuses on an educational media campaign targeting 3,000 local Yangtze fishermen in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze.

The campaign aims to highlight the impact that current activities are having on the river’s flagship inhabitants, and to demonstrate the need for sustainable management and development of the Yangtze’s freshwater ecosystem resources.

A Professor of Zoology and Conservation Biology at the Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Dr. Zhang is an expert of cetacean biology and has over 20 years experience of educational initiatives and community engagement.

He aims to unite local stakeholders – fishermen, conservationists and government officials – through a series of highly interactive, engaging workshops using DVD projection, lectures and p ublic exhibition displays. As well as raising awareness of a new seasonal fishing ban which the government has implemented in order to help increase fish stocks, local fishermen will be introduced to more sustainable methods of catching fish that do not kill other forms of wildlife.

Local fishers, who are intimately aware of the location of the last remaining dolphins, will be encouraged to participate in a survey of the dolphins to build local ownership of the project and collect data that will be critical to future efforts to conserve the species.

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