Sundarbans, Bay Of Bengal

The proposed Sundarbans Cetacean Diversity Protected Area is an umbrella name for a South Asian dolphin and whale protected area that would encompass mangrove, delta, coastal and offshore waters

The proposed Sundarbans Cetacean Diversity Protected Area is an umbrella name for a South Asian dolphin and whale protected area that would encompass mangrove, delta, coastal and offshore waters. The Sundarbans proposal starts in the winding river delta channels of the Sundarbans mangrove of Bangladesh, where you can find Irrawaddy dolphins and nearly blind, endangered Ganges river dolphins. From there it extends to the coastal and nearshore waters with small finless porpoises and the pink Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins. Moving offshore where the deepest areas are found is a place called Swatch of No Ground. Here, the diversity changes to feature Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins and spinner dolphins, along with pantropical spotted dolphins, and Bryde’s whales.

Current status of dolphins in the area

As in much of Asia the inshore dolphins are suffering the most with the Irrawaddy dolphin and finless porpoise rated Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin Near Threatened; the Ganges River dolphin is Endangered. Current problems for the dolphins include: accidental entanglement in gillnets; destruction of fish-spawning habitat through mangrove deforestation; toxic contamination from upstream cities such as Dhaka; non-selective catch of fish fingerlings and crustacean larvae in mosquito nets; growing ship traffic; and large-scale water engineering projects. Still, compared to many areas in South Asia, whales and dolphins are still relatively numerous here and the biodiversity is healthy. Thus it is important to take steps to protect it now. WDCS is working with local researchers Elisabeth and Rubaiyat Fahrni Mansur and Brian Smith from the Bangladesh Cetacean Diversity Project to stimulate protection for this important region.

For more information about the proposed Sundarbans Cetacean Diversity Protected Area, please go to www.cetaceanhabitat.org.