Target: Win Tun, Myanmar’s Minister of Environmental Conservation and Forestry
Goal: Put a stop to dangerous electrofishing that shocks and kills endangered dolphins.
Rogue fishermen are using an illegal form of fishing that has been known to kill the dolphins their community has come to rely on. Dolphins living in the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar (Burma) have been helping local fishermen catch fish for over one hundred and fifty years. Responding to calls from the fishermen, the Irrawaddy dolphins corral schools of fish alongside the fishermen’s canoes, helping them catch over three times the amount they would have gotten without the help of these extraordinary animals. The dolphins get their share in the form of fish that wriggle out of the nets as they are pulled up.
This unique relationship is grounded in the reverence that local peoples have for the dolphins. Local folklore tells how a pair of dolphins agreed to help struggling fisherman and their families who had missed a rain shower of silver and gold because they were sleeping. In return, the village had to respect the dolphins and do them no harm. Today, driven by competition-based government fishing concessions, some rogue fishermen have broken that covenant.
Using nets wired with electricity or rods to send currents throughout the water to stun fish, they use the same calls that they and generations before them have always used. This deception naturally breeds mistrust among the dolphins. Wary of the shock, they respond less and less to calls even from trustworthy fishermen, who spend frustrating hours ending up with merely a fraction of the catch they normally have.
Greater cause for mourning, however, came when two dolphins that washed ashore were found to be victims of electrofishing. According to one fisherman interviewed in a recent article National Geographic News, their grief was that of losing a member of the family.
Electrofishing is illegal in Myanmar, punishable with a three-year sentence and a fine. Yet judges rarely issue the maximum jail time. Meanwhile, some electro-fishermen have formed violent gangs. They threaten local villagers so that they will not report them and have even attacked policemen.
Please sign the petition below to push for harsher punishment for electrofishing.
Dear Minister Tun,
I am writing in order to bring your attention to the dangerous practice of electrofishing along the Irrawaddy River. This practice threatens a one-hundred-fifty-year-old relationship of respect and trust between fishermen and the Irrawaddy dolphins. It pushes the already endangered dolphin species closer to extinction and jeopardizes the entire ecosystem.
I urge you to ensure that violators of the electrofishing ban receive the punishment they deserve. I also encourage you to consider the potential that ecotourism could have in shifting fishermen’s incentive to engage in electrofishing. Such a course of action would make the statement that protection of the ecosystem allows all to benefit from it, future generations included.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: skeeze via Pixabay